The NEW Chase Summer Fruit Cup (Vodka-based)

Last year, I sought out the Chase Summer Fruit Punch (Fruit Cup), which was made exclusively for Bistro du Van in Soho. I thought that the product had a lot of potential, so I was intrigued to see what this year would bring from Chase.

The answer? Chase Summer Fruit Cup. Master of Malt’s recent offering also uses the term “Summer Fruit Cup”, whilst Plymouth and Sipsmith use “Summer Cup” and Stone’s, “Fruit Cup”.

Unlike their 2011 variety, Chase Summer Fruit Cup is bottled at 20%ABV (rather than 40%ABV), but it continues to be based on vodka. Vodka-based Fruit Cups are not unheard of: Pimm’s have made a vodka-based No:6 cup since the 1960s and some other brands have also created vodka fruit cups at one time or another. That said, it is still a more unusual choice of spirit.

The Taste

All drinks were mixed one part Chase Summer Fruit Cup, three parts mixer.

with Lemonade
This has a very clean taste of lemon to start, with fewer deep, herbal notes and less bitterness than most gin-based fruit cups. Notably, it has more flavour than the lighter Pimm’s No:6, with tart blackcurrant and lighter, leafy green, herbal notes. This makes this drink perfect for late summer, being both light and comforting (reminding me somewhat of the “children’s cocktails” I used to have as a child, which were generally some variation on blackcurrant cordial and lemonade, although this is obviously more complex than that!).

with Ginger Ale
This makes for a more subtle drink, with the blackcurrant being balanced out well by the ginger ale. I used Canada Dry and a surprising amount of the ginger comes through (if you want even more fire, then I would suggest using Fevertree, Q or Fentiman’s latest offering). Once again, this lends itself to the months of August and September, what with the slightly warmer and more comforting notes.

with Bitter Lemon
Excellent; the fruity, slightly tart berry flavours work well with the crisp bitter lemon (I used Fevertree’s Lemon Tonic) to make an exceptionally refreshing drink, that would work especially well on a baking hot summer’s day. Delicious! Those who find many fruit cups too sweet should definitely try this!

with Tonic Water
I know at least one reader (he knows who he is) who prefers his fruit cup with tonic, and it’s not a bad drink in general. With Chase Summer Fruit Cup, it makes for
quite a dry drink with a fruity flick at the beginning, followed by tart berries and leafy green herbs on the finish. Clean, crisp and cooling. I used standard Schweppes and I thought that it worked well; with something like Fevertree, or Thomas Henry, I think the result would be even better.

In terms of seasonality, I think using Sparkling Elderflower or Rhubarb Lemonade would give the drink a more springtime feel and it could easily lend itself well to that. The ginger ale gives it an autumnal feel and the combinations with bitter lemon and tonic make superb summer sippers.

Negroni
I’m also keen to try fruit cups in some different contexts and so I decided to use it in the place of vermouth in a Negroni.
This make a lighter Negroni; one that was less herbal and cleaner. The Campari plays a strong role, maybe being even more dominant than usual, but it should appeal to
those who are fans of this bitter Italian drink, especially as a pre-dinner cocktail for the summer.

In Conclusion

Having tried last season’s fruit cup, I think that this is most certainly an improvement: the flavour is more balanced and complex, and bottling it at 20%ABV rather than 40%ABV makes it more accessible and has resulted in a far more suppable vodka-based cup.

Chase Summer Fruit Cup is available for around £22 for 70cl from The Champagne Company.

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Organic Fruit/Summer Cup Recipe

I recently had a request from a gentleman on Twitter asking me about the availability of organic fruit cup.

I knew that no commercial product currently existed, but I thought that it wouldn’t be too much trouble to mix one up myself, using organic gin and organic vermouth, but then I found out that no-one currently makes organic vermouth!*

Intrigued by this gap in the market, I set about making my own, using my previous experience from making red vermouth. Starting from scratch, I made a fruit cup mix** (organic flavour-infused aromatized wine) that I could then mix with organic Gin/Vodka/Whisky to make a fruit cup that could then be mixed with organic lemonade.


My Recipe:
One bottle of Organic Red Wine (Italian Terra Viva Merlot 2010 – £6.99 Waitrose)
Juice and peel of one organic lemon and organic orange
Peel of half an organic cucumber
One organic tea bag, infused in the wine for 15 mins (Organic Earl Grey – £1.29 Waitrose)
Four dessert spoonfuls of organic brown sugar (the darker the better)
One stick of organic cinnamon

Add everything to a Kilner Jar and leave to infuse for 24 hrs.
Give it a taste and, if you are happy with the flavour, strain and bottle the mix; if not, leave for a little longer.
Blend the mix in equal parts with your spirit, for example Juniper Green Organic Gin, and then sit down to enjoy a glass of your very own organic fruit cup.

Organic Fruit Cup as enjoyed at The Feathers Gin Bar, Woodstock



Taste
I mixed the fruit cup 1 part Fruit Cup to 3 parts Belvoir Organic Lemonade.

The main point of a Fruit Cup is that it is refreshing and cooling; this version certainly ticks that box. There are sweet and tart elements in the drink and it is also quite citrusy. It is very refreshing and not too sweet, part of the freshness of the drink comes from the distinct taste from the cucumber peel. Easy to drink and rather moreish.

In Conclusion
My first batch was something of a cross between sangria and fruit cup, but if I could find some  organic bitter herb (wormwood, gentian, etc.) to use, I think it would have an additional depth of flavour. Using a darker sugar for the mix, or perhaps a little treacle, would also improve the drink.

* Speaking to Ian Hart of Sacred, who makes some fantastic vermouths, (and gin & vodka) organic vermouth is a bit tricky to come by, but not impossible.
** It doesn’t contain wormwood and so it isn’t vermouth.

Fruit Cup Tasting – Beyond Pimm’s

Many readers will be familiar with the most popular brand of Fruit Cup, Pimm’s, but let me introduce you to its lesser-known competition. What is a Fruit Cup? It’s a spirit or fortified wine-based drink bottled at between 10% and 30%ABV it is infused with various herbs and spices and if often lengthened by adding lemonade, ginger ale or apple juice. A fruit garnish and plenty of ice is part of the typical serve.

With the sunny start of the Bank Holiday, we took the opportunity to take to the garden and taste a variety of fruit cups. We mixed 35ml of cup with 105ml of lemonade (our preference was R Whites), we added ice, and a garnish of lemon, orange, cucumber and mint. We assessed each drink in terms of the overall taste, how refreshing and how “moreish” (did you wish to drink more) it was.

Summer Fruit Cups: From Left to Right: Jeeves, Pimms, Plymouth, ASDA, Stones, Players, Austins, Pitchers.

Here are the results:

Player’s Original Punch21.5%ABV                                                   j  Produced by Lamb & Watt of Liverpool, Player’s may be a little trickier to come by, and appears to be mostly found in specialist off licences these days, but it is well worth the effort. Player’s sweet, fruity style is what one would typically expect from a good summer fruit cup. This summery drink is very refreshing and perfect to enjoy on a sunny day. If you are looking for a very traditional, yet refreshing, fruit cup flavour, this would be your best bet.

Player’s is now available from Asda at around £6 for 70cl

Austin’s – 21.9%ABV –                       Available from Aldi                               y Aldi’s offering has an attractive price tag. It has a similar flavour to Pimm’s and I know folks who use it as an affordable substitute. That said, it does not have a very strong flavour and when mixed with lemonade it struggles to add anything to the flavour of the mixer. With time, ice melt and the infusion of the garnish the flavour improves but it is not nearly as refreshing nor is it as moreish as some of the others we tried. A garnish is essential with this one.


Pimm’s No.1 Gin Cup – 25%ABV      Available in most supermarkets and off-licences   Owned by drink’s giant Diageo, Pimm’s is the oldest and the best known fruit cup. Although there are other varieties of Pimm’s (such as Vodka No.6), we tasted No.1 (gin based). The Pimm’s flavor was surprisingly not as strong as some of its contemporaries and was also quite sweet. The aftertaste of sherbet lemons was both unique and pleasant. A drink that was both refreshing and relatively moreish. This was Mrs B’s favourite before we started and, although we both enjoyed it, in comparison to the others it was rather middle-of-the-road.

Jeeves – 17.5%ABV Available from Tesco           This drink clings to the mouth, it has a strong but unpleasant flavour, similar to bitter herbs which was somewhat reminiscent of old vermouth. This was neither refreshing nor moreish. Less than half the price of Pimm’s, but not even half as good. However, the drink did improve as the ice started to melt.

Fruit Cup, Lemonade and Garnish – Lovely

Plymouth Fruit Cup – 30%ABV            Available from Plymouth Gin Distillery and selected off-licences.                                                                                           A complex flavour of herbs and spices, which reminds me of Italian vermouth with a good balance of sweetness and bitterness. This cup has the highest alcoholic strength, which gives it a little more of a punch but it’s certainly not too much. With the exception of the Stones cup, this was the most unique with a flavour which is full, but not overpowering. Plymouth Fruit cup produces a cool and refreshing drink and certainly leaves you wanting more.

It also worth noting that Plymouth also suggest trying mixing their cup with ginger ale; we tried this later and were inclined to agree that it improved the drink further. Definitely one of our favourites.
I’m not sure how much more of Plymouth Fruit Cup Plymouth will be making, so if you want some, buy it when you see it.

ASDA Summer Fruit Cup – 15%ABV Available from ASDA             This divided opinion (who would have thought a fruit cup could be controversial!), one of us enjoyed the low-key sweet fruitiness and more prevalent herbal notes, which are somewhat reminiscent of peppered celery; the other found the taste and smell overpowering, and the drink unrefreshing.

Stones Summer Cup – 13.5% ABV                                                                     This is produced by the makers of the famous Ginger Wine of the same name and is marketed as a light version of their ginger wine. This has a different flavour but it was a break-away that worked well, it stands away from the crowd and looks pretty good. The flavour has a little spice and a small hint of ginger: it is fresh and refreshing. The drink was complimented nicely by the garnish.

It is worth noting that Stone’s suggest mixing their drink one part of cup to four parts of lemonade. When we subsequently tried another drink, mixed to these proportions, the difference was a very pleasant surprise as the edge of the flavour was taken off and the drink became incredibly refreshing and easily the most drinkable. An excellent option, particularly if you are looking for an option which isn’t as strong as Pimm’s.
This Product is now, very sadly,  discontinued however I find a mix of 2 parts Stones Ginger Wine and One Part Red/Sweet Vermouth is a good substitute.
Pitchers – 25% ABV Available from Sainsbury’s                                            Very close in terms of flavour, strength and even packaging to Pimm’s and priced at over £10 a bottle, this is the most expensive of the more generic varities we tried. However it is one of the better ones; although it clings a little to the mouth initially, the drink was refreshing with a balance of sweetness and spice that was, fortunately, not too sweet. This, made up in a jug, and shared with friends would be lovely…
Sipsmith Summer Cup – % ABV – Available from Waitrose & Majestic                                            V
Oxford Originals – % ABV –                                             V

In Conclusion

My favourite was Stones Fruit Cup (although the home-made substitute is easy to make and also pretty good) so now the clear winner is Plymouth followed by Players. Pimm’s clearly beats most of the supermarket own-brand and whilst Pitcher’s puts up a good fight at a price similar, or sometime above Pimm’s is worth switching?If you want a cheap alternative that is still pretty good I would suggest Austin’s or, even better, a home-made mix of ginger wine and red vermouth – I have used even the cheapest of ingredients; Ginger Wine £4 a litre, Bellino “Vermouth” £2.50 for 70cl that works out at just £3.83 a litre.

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*more varieties of Pimm’s used to be available (No2-5; Scotch, Brandy Rum & Rye, respectively) and we keen to experiment with Tequila, Bourbon, Cachaca, White rum etc. too. Pimm’s No7…?

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Cocktails with… Beefeater Winter

It seems that Beefeater have excelled themselves in gin innovation this year by launching not just one, but two seasonal varieties of their gin. Beefeater Winter follows their summer edition and, in addition to Beefeater’s normal botanicals, takes flavour from pine shoots, cinnamon and nutmeg. Given the very festive nature of this gin and Mrs. B’s new fondness for hot cocktails, in a new twist for “Cocktails with…”, one half of the drinks we tried were hot.

The COOLIES

#1 Gin & Tonic
We tried this in an icicle Gin & Tonic, using real icicles from a recent cold snap. I really enjoyed this drink, as I do normally with Beefeater, but it was only at the end that I could tell the two apart: Beefeater Winter has a much spicier nose.

#2 Martini
A good Martini; the extra botanicals in Beefeater Winter complement the vermouth well and, although the drink itself was stirred until ice cold, it seemed more warming than your average Gin & It.

#3 Gimlet
A subtle and smooth Gimlet; the gin balances out the lime cordial and is quiet until the end, when the winter spice comes through, followed by a little juniper bitterness.

#4 White Lady
Beefeater Winter produced a beautifully smooth White Lady, and, as with some of the other cocktails we tried, the difference between normal Beefeater is noticeable at the finish of the cocktail.

#5 Aviation
A crisp Aviation. Although it is quite nice, I preferred most of the other drinks.

#6 Bramble
The Bramble rather overpowers Beefeater Winter, with the Creme de Mure making it too sweet; the ingredients don’t seem to blend well.

Icicle Gin & Tonic (with real Icicles!) made with Beefeater Winter

The HOT Ones

#7 Mistletoe Mist
The cranberry and mint are well matched and the nature of the gin means that the flavour comes through without overpowering the drink. This hot and fruity cocktail is a nice alternative to most hot toddies and nogs, as it’s neither creamy nor based on honey.

#8 Hot Apple Gin
This smelt liked apple sauce and reminds me of home-made stewed apples. The warmth of the gin comes through, with a little spice and some apple freshness; it’s a good alternative to the standard hot gin toddy. Mrs B. says it reminded her of a hot apple pie.

#9 Hot Alexander
A hot version of the Original Gin Alexander, this was a punt, but I was pleased with how it worked out. The standard drink is usually served ice cold and so isn’t so great for the winter, but the hot version has a delicious creaminess and provides a good appreciation of the gin and its wintery notes.

#10 Gin Egg Nog
This was a hot variation of the recipe provided by Beefeater. It tasted a little like cake batter, with a flavour of the gin at the end. The gin works well, as it is not too overpowering, but provides some spice. The drink tastes a bit like custard, but, when you consider the ingredients, that’s not too surprising.

#11 Hot Gin Toddy
I think the garnish of cloves add something to the flavour and complements the Beefeater Winter well. This gin makes a very classic gin toddy.

#12 Bakewell
Tastes like a Christmas Bakewell tart: a little milky, with sweet almond notes, all finished off with a cherry garnish. Some juniper and spice at the end.

#13 Buttered Beefeater
Hot buttered rum, Beefeater style. This was incredibly indulgent and probably should take the place of a pudding. It tastes of caramel and butter, reminding me a tad of raw flapjack mix. Drinking it through a top of layer of whipped cream adds to the sweetness and the coolness of the cream contrasts nicely with the warmth of the drink. I used molasses sugar, which seemed to work better with the flavours of this particular gin.

Beefeater Gin's Master Distiller Desmond Payne and DTS

Beefeater Gin’s Master Distiller Desmond Payne and DTS

In conclusion, I think this is another great innovation and, although I think it works well in some of the cold drinks, it really shines in the hotties; with a bit of innovation and seasonal flair, you can find some perfect winter warmers to make with this gin.

After this review, it begs one question: in the future will there be other seasonal variants of Beefeater? Perhaps a spring or autumnal gin? Time will tell, but I for one would like to see them!

Available for around £18-£20 for 70cl from The DrinkShop & The Whisky Exchange.

CONGRATULATIONS! You’ve found an Easter Egg on SummerFruitCup.

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.

Mrs B.’s Drinks

Mrs. B’s Drinks

or

Cocktails for Ladies

I have often found myself caught off-guard when asked, “What would you like to drink?”. With a lack of insight, I usually then found myself sipping a glass of orange juice, but longing for something more adventurous.

The world of cocktails, even just vintage ones, is vast and often expensive and so, after a couple of conversations with ladies in a similar situation to myself, I decided to raid the cellar and the bookshelf and find cocktails that could I recommend to female friends. I wanted to arm all of us with a list of choices – relatively straight-forward, easy-to-find choices – for those moments of ignorance and indecision that I had found myself dreading. I hope that this brief introduction provides some insight into a much bigger and vibrant world of cocktails.

From left to right: White Lady, Brandy Alexander, Rusty Nail, Harvey Wallbanger, Simple Rum Cocktail, Sidecar, Sweet Martini

The White Lady (8/10)

This gin-based cocktail was wonderfully smooth and, with its bitter, lemon flavour and creamy froth on top, was highly reminiscent of a lemon meringue pie, only without the excessive sweetness. I could easily see myself sipping and savouring one of these at any point in an evening, although I imagine those with a more refined palate than myself may enjoy specifying their choice of gin to make it even better.

Harvey Wallbanger (7/10)

Vodka, orange juice and Galliano come together to make this a sweet and fruity long drink that probably won’t hang around for too long if you have a sweet tooth and like the strong vanilla flavour. If find sugary cocktails hard to swallow, using Galliano L’Autentico, based on an older formulation, may be just the ticket: the sweet vanilla is then replaced with a subtle aniseed kick. Both variations are delicious with a slice of orange and, for a real treat, freshly squeezed juice.

I found the Harvey Wallbanger much easier to drink than The White Lady and wonderfully thirst-quenching, but thought it likely to disappear all too quickly to really savour.

Mrs B. samples a Harvey Wallbanger

Brandy Alexander (9.5/10)

I have to admit to being less than enthusiastic about cocktails containing cream, and so I was quietly dreading the Brandy Alexander (which I know to be a favourite of Mr. B), but this one was a real surprise. A dusting of nutmeg and chocolate flake draws you into a combination of brandy, crème de cacao, and (in this case, double) cream that is silky and rich, with the warmth in the brandy slowly seeping through after the ice-cream-like beginning. This is a drink that could very easily replace a dessert, in my eyes (and I like my desserts!).

Simple Rum Cocktail (6/10)

With a glass full of crushed ice, refreshing lime and a dash of cola, this cocktail brings back memories of many a summer evening. It is a very enjoyable way of drinking rum, both if you are a fan of the spirit or if you have just been introduced. The other ingredients complement the rum, making it more palatable for a fresh face, but the individual character of the rum still comes through; if you don’t use a rum that you like the taste of on its own, this probably won’t be your favourite.

Sweet Martini (ladies only, according to the Esquire’s Handbook for Hosts) (8/10)

Mixed using Old Tom Gin, which is sweeter than its modern counterparts, this martini was remarkably full of flavour, which was highly unexpected, given its cool, clear exterior. It certainly packs a punch, but the flavour goes far beyond just alcohol; I found myself reminiscing on olives and pizza, making me think that it might serve quite well as an aperitif for an Italian meal. Given its bold flavours, this probably won’t be to everyone’s taste, but it’s an unusual one to try, regardless of your feelings towards the dry martini.

Rusty Nail (8/10)

As a fan of whisky, I was looking forward to this one and wasn’t disappointed: with its combination of Drambuie, a honey and herb liqueur, and blended Scotch, it is a sweeter way to drink whisky without drowning it within a long drink. This would be a delightful drink to slowly sip by the fire at the end of a long day, feeling both the flames and the alcohol gradually warm you up.

Sidecar (9/10)

Finally, we have the Sidecar: a deliciously smooth and fruity cocktail and another one that surprised me, as I’m not generally a fan of brandy. The Sidecar, however, is a short, revitalising drink (that is, nonetheless, relatively easy to manage) with a sharp finish that reminded me distinctly of sherbet. The flavours come together nicely and I believe I could quite happily order one of these at any point during an evening. This is my top pick for a ladies’ cocktail.

In conclusion, by scores alone, the Brandy Alexander was my clear favourite, but, unlike a good cup of tea, I feel that I would need to be in a specific mood to enjoy one as much as I did in this tasting. Therefore, the top spot in my list of cocktails for ladies has to be the Sidecar, followed by the Rusty Nail and The White Lady, with the Brandy Alexander reserved for those times when I’m after a sweet treat, but can’t manage dessert!

There are, of course, many, many other cocktails to try and so I would greatly encourage everyone to try something new; why not ask a barman for a recommendation, stating your favourite spirit as a base? Create your own, tailored list so that you never again find yourself, as I did, unarmed with the perfect drink for an evening.