Sandal wood is known for it therapeutic properties and is used in Ayurvedic medicines as much as it is used in religious rituals in India. Sandal wood is also used in Awadhi cuisine for Kebabs etc and is slowly making it way into a common man's kitchen in India in the form of ready made sandal wood syrups and sharbats. We tried to make our own for use in cocktails and non zero proof cocktail drinks and the wood can add wonderful aromatics and complexity to a simple drink. Here is our recipe. Do comment and let us know if you made any changes or if you have any suggestions. Thanks .
Sandal wood powder: 50 gms ( edible, bought from a Ayurveda shop)
Water: 500 ml
Sugar : 400 gms
lime juice: 5-7.5 ml
- Soak the Sandal wood powder in water overnight, 10-12 hrs
- Strain it 2-3 times through muslin cloth or filter paper to get rid of the fine particles
- Take the clear fragrant water and add sugar to it and cook till one string consultancy
- Add the lemon juice at the end to avoid crystallization
- Cool it and strain once more for clarity
- Store it in the refrigerator. Ours went good till a month before it got over.
Gin industry is fledgling in India with so many new brands in the foray to get a fair share of the growing gin market . However today we speak about Gin brands which are not Indian but they are surely India inspired , at least their names say so. Here are a few foreign Gins with Indian names. Of course we have not included the well known Sapphire, the Blue one.
Already available in India and quiet famous in the Jodhpur, this Gin is inspired by the Blue City. Jodhpur is a London dry style produced with 13 botanicals including Jeera and Ajwain in the oldest distillery of England.
A gin made in Cork, Ireland the Maharani is the brainchild of Bhagya who hails from Kerala and her husband Robert Barret. The spices like mace, cassia are sourced from a cooperative; Vanamoolika from Wayanad Kerala and the bottle also has Malayalam text. Malayalis in the house, please stand up !
Created by one the largest Indian caterers in the UK, the Mumbai Gin flavoured with Mango and Pomegranate complements gourmet Indian food, their website mentions.
Old Raj Gin
Made for Cadenheads's since 1972. the Old Raj is bottled in Campbeltown Scotland. The yellow tint is because of the use of Saffron and the name is of course leading to its India connection.
A made in London gin, Goa is inspired by the Indian state and co-incidentally the state is already home to some 5 odd home grown gins.
Indian Summer Gin
Made in Scotland; it refers to the bright sunny and hot days which are often referred as the Indian Summer in Britain. This gin again comes with a golden hue because of Saffron.
Made in the United States, this gin with 13 botanicals uses Grape spirit as a base unlike grain spirit for most of them.
Again from the states, this gin is inspired by the Masala chai and uses ginger, pepper corns, black tea apart from the other ingredients.
P.S: Greater Than, Stranger & Sons, Hapusa, GinDia, Jaisalmer, Gin Gin, Gin Jiji, Samsara, Terai, Pumori, Tickle are some Indian Gin brands for your perusal.
The Bar World of Tomorrow is a training course developed for the post Covid scenario by Pernod Ricard, Trash Tiki and the Sustainable Restaurant association on the platform edapp. Our founder Ajit Balgi completed the course and thought that it is very much relevant to India in most aspects . The whole objective about the module to make your bar more sustainable and includes topics from reducing carbon foot print to waste management to associate work life balance.
Reduce, Reuse, Recycle are the mantras that are reiterated in this module and it helps a bartender navigate through the various aspects they may have ignored till today. With difficult times, Saving is as good as making more money and this cannot be at the cost of consumer dissatisfaction, the course brings all that up. Taking care of yourself is as important as thinking about your consumers, work-life balance is highlighted here. The Trash Tiki comes in with knowledgeable inputs on sustainability in the bar with regards to ingredients and its reuse or getting the maximum yield out of ingredients in your bar rather; thus saving costs. Oleo Saccharum, cordials, stocks etc add to the jazz that the bartender often seeks. It will take you a couple of hours to navigate through this and if you are a progressive bartender, then you better give it a shot. You can sign up through the link below, it is free.
With Covid-19 pretty much putting the entire hospitality industry into a precarious position, do or die is the way ahead. With necessity being the mother of all inventions, the restaurants and bars industry will have to keep pulling rabbits out of their hats till the situation normalizes. The liquor industry which is also dependent on bars and restaurant;not completely though can also innovate to mitigate losses or at least the loss in the revenue. Both the bars and the liquor industry will have to be ready for the post COVID consumer. Here are a few trends/suggestions/solutions we envisage going forward:
Home delivery of Cocktail premixes:
If the consumers aren't coming to you then be ready to take your experience to the consumer. With alcohol delivery not possible in the Indian context, the beverage revenues could be still given a boost with premixes of signature cocktails that could be home delivered. These premixes need to be just poured over ice along with the spirit and the cocktail is ready. Pricing cannot be prohibitive for most restaurants but the luxury hotels can price it their way with fancy packaging, DIY kits etc.
The rise of RTDs ( Ready to drink ) beverages:
The sales of retail will surely go up as people will prefer to drink at home and stay safe and also save money. This throws open an opportunity to create ready-to-drink SKUs mimicking favourite cocktail recipes like the LIIT, Cosmopolitan, Sours, Sangrias etc. These will be convenient for the house party culture that will become the norm. 'Crack it open and pour it on ice' will address a big pain point.
House party catering will rise:
House parties will rise and can you as a restaurant/bar cater to beverages too? Can you create compact per person packages that can get your restaurant experience at people's home? Hygiene, Safety checks will be paramount and then comes the number of cocktails, drinks that can be offered in the package. Of course there are bartending services out there but can they match up to your standards and hygiene levels! So think on these lines and there is a huge opportunity here.
Rise of the home bartender:
A lot of people would want to learn the art of cocktail making etc to be a better party host and manage the show themselves. Can you as a restaurant /Bar create educational experiences for your consumers in your bars ? These home bartenders trained by you could be the ones who could be the customers for your cocktail premixes in the future. We at The Happy High are already offering some courses online
Bundling up food and beverage at an attractive price to get the consumers visiting you will have to be done till the situation eases. These fixed priced options will ensure a certain business to the restaurant whilst the insecure consumer will have the option to choose a fixed budget for that evening. All said, every place will have to sincerely adhere to safety and hygiene norms and also let the consumers know about it.
We can only put our best foot forward with a hope that 2020 will not be that bad a vintage as it seems now!
1) Cognac Summit
4 ginger slice + Muddle + 40 ml Cognac + build + lemonade to top + Lime zest + Cucumber peel
60 ml Cognac + 30 ml Cointreau + 30 ml Lemon Juice + Shake + Coupe + Lemon peel
Sugar Cube + Peychaud’s + 45 ml Cognac + Stir + 15 ml Absinthe rinse for Rocks glass + Lemon Peel
4) Vieux Carre
20 ml Cognac + 20 ml Rye + 20 ml Vermouth + 5 ml Benedictine + 2 dash Angostura and Peychaud each + Stir + Rocks Glass + Orange Peel
5) Between The Sheets
22.5 ml Cognac + 22.5 ml White Rum + 22.5 ml Cointreau + 15 ml lemon juice + Shake + Coupe + Orange peel
6) Brandy Crusta
50 ml Cognac + 20 ml Lemon Juice + 15 ml Triple Sec + 5 ml Cherry liqueur + 2 dash Angostura + Shake + Sugar Rimmed Cocktail glass + Whole lemon peel
7) Brandy Alexander
30 ml Brandy + 30 ml Crème de Cacao + 30 ml cream + Shake + Couple + Nutmeg
30 ml Cognac + 30 ml Benedictine + Stir + Rocks Glass + Lemon Twist
9) Corpse Reviver
40 ml Cognac + 20 ml Apple brandy + 20 ml Sweet Vermouth + Stir + Cocktail glass + lemon peel
10) Brandy Daisy
60 ml Cognac + 20 ml Lemon juice + 20 ml Grenadine ( or triple sec) + Shake + Cocktail/Collins + Soda to top + Lemon peel
Seems like an nouvelle relation, but it exists and the Swedish have embraced it as a colonial gift. Let's decode this a little better.
What is an Indonesian Arrack aka Batavia Arrack?
A spirit that predates rum, Arrack was a spirit made out of sugar cane molasses and red rice in the 17th Century Dutch colonized island of Java, the capital of the Java was Batavia and hence the name. It was very popular in Punches in the 18th and 19th centuries but emergence of other spirits including Rum and import taxes pushed Batavia Arrack out of fashion.
What is the Swedish connection with Arrack?
The Swedish East India company formed in 1731 started to import Arrack from Java in 1733 and along with it came the Punch, the Swedish Punsch. The Swedish punch was hot water, Arrack, lemon, sugar, spice The swedes raised a toast to it and it became a part of their culture. It was drunk hot and in small cups with an ear. It soar in popularity that people started offering premixed punches and it became more accessible when a wine merchant J. Cederlunds Sonner started to bottle it in 1845. He added a little sour wine to his recipe, may be to make it more affordable. With Ice, Punches also started to be drunk cold globally. The Haryy Johnson's 1882 Bartender's Manual had a recipe of a Cold Ruby Punch which had Batavia Arrack, of course, Ruby Port and Green Tea. In fact, the Arrack is an ingredient in the Swedish chocolate Praline the Punschpraline and the Punschrulle and also the Finnish Runeberg torte called Runebergstårta in Sweden. Today multiple brands of Swedish Punsches are available in the market and they include rum too in the mix whilst in the west the Batavia Arrack is trying to make a comeback over the last decade.
60 ml Tequila + 30 ml Cointreau + 30 ml Lime Juice + Shake + Coupe + Salt rim + Lime Wheel
60 ml Tequila + 30 ml Triple Sec + 30 ml lime Juice + Shake + Couple + Lime Wheel
60 ml Reposado Tequila + 30 ml Apricot Brandy/Liqueur + 30 ml Lime Juice + Shake + Coupe
4) Tommy’s Margarita
60 ml Tequila + 30 ml Lime juice + 15 ml Agave syrup + Shake + Rocks Glass + lime wedge + Salt rim (optional)
60 ml Tequila + 60 ml Grapefruit juice + 10 ml Sugar Syrup + Dry Shake + Collins + Salt rim + Soda to top
60 ml Reposado Tequila + 90 ml Fresh Pineapple Juice + 15 Lime Juice + Shake + Rocks Glass
30 ml Reposado/Anejo Tequila + 30 ml Vermouth Bianco + 30 ml Cointreau + Stir + Cocktail Glass
60 ml Tequila + 15 ml Lime Juice + 2 pinch salt + 100 ml Cola + Build + Stir with Knife
8) EL Diablo
45 ml Tequila + 15 ml Crème de Cassis + 15 ml Lime Juice + Shake + Collins + Top with Ginger Beer + Lime Wheel
60 ml Orange Juice + 30 ml Lime Juice + 30 ml Pomogranate Juice + Chili Powder (other spices) + Build + Tumbler
10) Tequila Sunrise
45 ml Tequila + 90 ml Orange juice + 15 ml Grenadine + Build + Highball + Orange slice
60 ml White Rum + 30 ml Coconut Cream + 30 ml Heavy cream + 180 ml Fresh Pineapple Juice + Blend with Ice + Tall Glass + Pineapple Wedge
2) Mai Tai
30 Ml Aged Agricole Rhum/Cachaca + 30 ml Aged Jamaican Rum + 15 ml Orgeat + 15 ml Curacao/ Triple Sec + 30 ml Lime Juice + Rocks Glass + Crushed Ice + Mint Sprig
60 ml White Cuban Rum + 15 ml Lime Juice + 7.5 ml Simple Syrup + Shake + Coupe
12 mint leaves + Muddle + 60 ml White Rum + 22.5 ml Lime Juice + 15 ml Simple Syrup + Crushed Ice + Build + Soda to top + Mint Sprig
5) Dark & Stormy
60 ml Dark Rum + 30 ml Lime Juice + 15 ml Simple Syrup + Shake + Collins + Ginger Beer to Top + Lime Wedge
6) El Presidente
60 ml White Rum + 30 ml White Vermouth + 15 ml Orange Liqueur + A dash Grenadine + Stir + Cocktail + Orange Peel
7) Planter’s Punch
60 ml Pot Still Jamaican Rum + 40 ml Lime Juice + 20 ml Simple Syrup + 3 dashes Angostura+ Shake + Tall glass crushed Ice + Orange and Mint Sprig
60 ml light Rum + 60 ml Dark Rum + 60 ml passion fruit juice + 30 ml orange juice + 15 ml Lime Juice + 15 ml Simple Syrup + 15 ml Grenadine + Shake + Hurricane Glass + Cherry + Orange Slice
9) Mary Pickford
60 ml White Rum + 45 ml Fresh Pineapple Juice + 10 ml Cherry Liqueur + 10 ml Grenadine
10) Hot Buttered Rum
60 ml Dark Rum + 2 Sugar Cubes + Hot water + Mug + 5 g unsalted Butter + Grated nutmeg
60 ml Rye or Bourbon + 30 ml Red Sweet Vermouth + Stir + Cocktail/Coupe + Cherry/Lemon twist
2) Mint Julep
Gently Muddle 1 mint sprig with 20 ml Simple Syrup + Crushed ice + 60 ml Bourbon + Build + Silver Cup + Large mint sprig/more ice
3) Whiskey Smash
Muddle Mint, 4 Lemon wedges & 15 ml Simple Syrup + 60 ml Bourbon or Rye + Cracked ice + Build + Rocks Glass + lemon wheel/mint sprig
60 ml Rye + 15 ml Simple Syrup + 2 dashes Peychaud’s bitters + 5 ml Absinthe ( to rinse the glass) + Stir + Rock Glass + Lemon Peel
30ml Bourbon + 30 ml Campari + 30 ml Sweet Red Vermouth + Stir + Rocks/Coupe + Orange Peel
30 ml Bourbon + 15 ml Triple Sec + 2 dash creole bitters + 2 dash Angostura + Stir + Flute + Champagne to top
7) New York Sour
60 ml Rye + 30 ml Lemon Juice + 20 ml Simple Syrup + 1 Egg White + Shake + Rock glass + Dry Red wine to float
8) Ward 8
60 ml Rye + 15 ml Lemon Juice + 15 ml Orange juice + 10 ml Grenadine + Shake + Cocktail Glass + Cherry
45 ml Rye + 30 ml Dry Vermouth + 20 ml Lime Juice + 15 ml Grenadine + 2 dash Orange Bitters + Shake + Cocktail Glass + Orange twist
10) Brown Derby
45 ml Bourbon + 30 ml grapefruit juice + 15 ml honey water + Shake + Cocktail glass + Grapefruit peel
1) Blood & Sand
25 ml Scotch + 25 ml Sweet Red Vermouth + 25 ml Cherry liqueur + 25 ml Orange juice + shaken + coupe + Orange slice
Muddle 1 piece ginger + 45 ml blended Scotch + 20 ml lime juice + 20 ml honey water + Shaken + Old Fashioned + 15 ml Islay Malt to float + Candied ginger/Fresh Ginger Slice
3) Rob Roy
40 ml Scotch + 20 ml Sweet Rosso Vermouth + Angostura 2 dashes + Stir + Cocktail/Martini glass+ Cherry
4) Rusty Nail
45 ml Scotch + 15 ml Drambuie + Stir + Old fashioned + Lemon peel
40 ml Scotch + 20 ml Amaretto + Stir + Old fashioned + Orange peel
6) Whisky Sour
60 ml Scotch + 20 ml Lime juice + 15 ml Simple Syrup + 15 ml Egg White + Shaken + Old fashioned + Angostura bitter
7) Scotch Old Fashioned
Muddle sugar cube with 2 dashes Angostura bitters + 60 ml Scotch + Stir + Old fashioned + Orange Peel
8) Bobby Burns
30 ml Scotch + 30 ml Ross Vermouth + 15 ml Benedictine + Stir + cocktail glass + lemon zest
9) Atholl Brose
60 ml Scotch + 45 ml Brose + 20 ml honey water + Shake + Coupe
Brose : 45 gms Oats + 150 ml warm water + Soak 15 minutes + strain = Creamy Brose
10) Blue Blazer
60 ml Scotch + 60 ml hot water + 1 tsp powdered sugar + Throw with flaming scotch + Brandy balloon + lemon zest
50 ml Gin + 10 ml Dry Vermouth + Olive/Lemon peel + Stir + Martini Glass. A Martini with cocktail onion as garnish is called a Gibson
60 ml Gin + 15 ml Lime juice + 15 ml Sugar syrup + lime wheel Shake + coupe
20 ml Gin + 20 ml Italian Bitter ( Campari) + 20 ml Red Vermouth (Martini Rosso) + Orange Peel + Stir + Rock Glass
4) French 75
45 ml Gin + 15 ml Lemon Juice + 10 ml Sugar syrup + Shake + Champagne Flute + 75 ml Champagne to top + Lemon peel. A lot of bars use Cognac instead of Gin as it is believed the former was a part of the original recipe
5) Clover Club
45 ml Gin + 15 ml Dry Vermouth + 15 ml Raspberry Syrup + 10 ml egg white + Shake + coupe + raspberries on stick
6) Tom Collins
45 ml Gin + 20 ml Lime juice + 20 ml Sugar Syrup + Build + Collins glass + Soda water to top
7) Singapore Sling
30 ml Gin + 15 ml Cherry Brandy + 7.5 ml Triple Sec + 7.5 ml Benedictine + 10 ml Grenadine + 15 ml Lime juice + 120 ml Pineapple juice + Build + Hurricane/Sling Glass
60 ml Gin + 5 ml Maraschino Cherry Liqueur + 5 ml crème de violette + 20 ml lime juice + 10 ml sugar syrup + Shake + coupe + Cherry on stick
9) Ramos Gin Fizz
45 ml Old Tom Gin + 30 ml Sugar Syrup + 30 ml Lime + Lemon Juice + 1 whole egg white + 60 ml cream + 2 ml Orange flower water + Shake till tired + Collins Glass + Soda to top
10) Bee’s Knees
60 ml Gin + 20 ml honey water + 20 ml lemon juice + Shake + coupe /Saucer
1) Bloody Mary
60 ml Vodka +150 ml Tomato Juice + Tobasco Sauce to taste+ Worcestershire sauce 5 ml + 2 lime wedge +Black pepper + celery salt + Build + tumbler
2) Moscow Mule
60 ml Vodka + 120 ml Ginger beer/ale + 10 ml lime juice + Fresh ginger optional + Build + Mule mug
45 ml Vodka + 15 ml Triple Sec + 15 ml lime juice + 30 ml Cranberry Juice + Shake + Martini
60 ml Vodka + 120 ml Orange + Orange Slice + Build + Tumbler/Collins
5) Vodka Martini
60 ml Vodka + 20 ml Vermouth + Lemon Peel + Stir + Martini
6) Salty Dog
50 ml Vodka + 100 ml Grapefruit + salt rim + lime wedge + built + rocks
7) White Russian
50 ml Vodka + 20 ml Coffee Liqueur + 30 ml cream + stir
60 ml Vodka + 15 ml Triple Sec + 15 ml Lime juice + shake
9) Espresso Martini
30 ml Vodka + 30 ml Coffee Liqueur + 30 ml Espresso + 3 beans to garnish + Shake
10) Harvey Wallbanger
60 ml Vodka + 120 ml Orange Juice + 20 ml Galliano to float + Orange Slice + Cherry + Built
A career in bartending is slowly gaining momentum in India and hence lot of bartending institutes and bar schools are mushrooming to fill the gap in bartending education. Whilst some may be focused on education, many are factories where the quality of education of often ignored specially due to faculty with lack of industry experience and hence content.
The Happy High hence is slated to start it's own bartending school in Mumbai after being in the wine and spirit education field for 10 years. The Bartending Academy in Mumbai will be headed by Ajit Balgi , a WSET Educator, India's first India based wine educator who is also a Cognac Educator( one of the 90 in the world) and also a Maison trainer a global bar training program. Ajit has trained over 5000 professionals and has trained hoteliers in Maldives, Thailand and London and is associated with beverages for the last 19 years.
The Happy High Bartending institute aims to groom beginners and get them job ready with content that is relevant for today's bars. We will look at getting the basics right in terms of spirits knowledge, wine tasting techniques, cocktail styles and cocktail making apart from getting the core of customer service and Bartender's personality right. Whilst Flair Bartending is what many beginners aspire to learn, we feel that the skill is not relevant for bars in India and abroad for now. Hence Fire Flair etc will be out of purview in this course.
How to choose a Bartending School in India?
- Look at the Faculty & industry connect
- Look at the infrastructure - a functional bar, equipments
- Look at the course relevance and practical aspect.
- Don't look for low fees. You do a bar course once, so please don't cut corners.
- Don't look at earning money during the course. You are there to study.
- Don't get lured into Flair Bartending, the industry relevance is low.
Check the link for more details on our bartending academy in Ghatkopar, Mumbai
2019 passed of in a jiffy and India saw a lot of progression in the drinks trade like every year. Sustainability was the buzz word and so was gin to a great extent and homegrown whisky brands continued to make a splash locally and globally. Here are our insights on what should 2020 be like or would be for the wine and spirit trade in India… Cocktail trends, new spirits and more.
People are getting more conscious about their diets and about price points. Low alcohol cocktails with a 30 or a 40 ml shot of spirit can bring the costs down by 1/3rd and also make the drink healthier. The price will also attract more patrons to order a cocktail and the bartender can have more creative work behind the bar.
Sugar free Cocktails:
With health becoming a priority and people going for spirit and water combinations, sugar free cocktails will be a new thing on the menu. Sugar free doesn’t mean drinks with Stevia and sugar alternatives but cocktails with a salt and acid balance or balance drawn from the sugar in the aged spirit.
Hand Cut Ice
The importance of ice in a drink has long been known by bartenders but due to operational issues that it was just treated as another ingredient. However we will soon see more bars getting serious about one of the most important ingredients in a drink by investing in better ice machines and also getting more involved in cutting ice blocks and hand carved ice
Wine is slowly coming to terms with India and vice-versa. The upper echelons of the society who is more exposed to wine and can afford it will look at the next level, Organic wines. Wine lists will have organic pointed to for those discerning.
Ayurveda and seasonality:
India has 6 seasons or ritus , Vasanta (spring), Grishma (summer), Varsha (monsoon), Sharad (autumn), Hemant (fall winter), and Shishir (winter) and the Indian Ayurveda diets based on these apart from the classification of food based on Satvik, Tamasik or Rajasik. For Cocktails, India will take of leaf of Ayurveda and use of ingredients like vetiver, licorice root, turmeric, sesame,neem, brahmi, ashwagandha, ginger with more functionality. Even regional fruits like the Bael fruit, kokum would see some light. Antiaging, cooling properties etc will be the buzz words.
Alcohol free :
Why should only people who drink alcohol have all the fun! Teetotalers wouldn’t want to be left out and hence will take up to non-alcoholic beverages as long as the look and the feel and the experience is like that of an alcoholic beverage. Artisanal mocktails or alcohol free cocktails with more seriousness will take some steps this year.
In house fermentation of fruit juices, kombuchas, tepaches, hop infusions and more. Progressive bartenders will pave the path for the country to follow in due course. It will be small beginnings given the resources and people’s ability to afford thus translating to lower demand. Top bars will set themselves apart with this.
Rum & Brandy:
Lastly there will be new wave of dark spirits with Rum being at the forefront and brandy specially Cognac in tow. Rum Old fashioned, Cognac Sours, Rum and Cigar, Cognac cocktails will take a leap. Both spirits have a profile that suit the Indian palate and it is only a matter of time and sustained marketing that these will rub shoulder with whisky, of course in the higher
Cheers to 2020!
Cognac is the world’s best-known brandy. In India Cognac if often associated with Bollywood, “Cognac sharaab nahi hoti” said Rishi Kapoor in Chandni 1989 and then Shahrukh Khan to Kajol in DDLJ 6 years later. If you read between the lines and try to understand the deeper meaning, may be it relates to what the Indian upper classes generally think of the beverage, sophistication. Well Cognac certainly deserves the respect for all it undergoes to come into ones lead free crystal.
Cognac is made from the Ugni blanc grape, double distilled in a special copper pot still called the alembic charentaise and then ages for a minimum of 2 years in oak barrels, either new or in the ones that carried a wine or a wine-based spirit. These days a sherry or a port cask finish is quite common in the Cognac world. The time they spend in the barrel in indicates as VS, VSOP and XO in an ascending order of 2 years, 4 years and 10 years. The years indicate the youngest cognac in the bottle, the oldest may be 5 decades old. This is where the art of Cognac blending comes into picture.
The Cognac market in India is most in the Southern states of India, Tamil Nadu and Kerala where the blue collared drink locally made brandy (mostly made from molasses) and the upper strata drinks Cognac. So, the following brands of Cognac are available not so readily in India but for the top 3.
Martell: The oldest of the big four in Cognac, the house of Martell was found in 1715 by a Englishman. The brand is now owned by Pernod Ricard and is known for its Borderies focussed Cognac, Borderies being the sub-region where the terroir or the growing environment gives it’s a floral overtone.
Remy Martin: Known for its specialty the ‘Fine Champagne’ Cognac which is a blend of grapes grown in Grande and Petit Champagne the most prestigious regions known for its long-lived Cognacs. It also produces the Louis XIII Cognac, it goes at Rs 3 lakhs plus a bottle.
Hennessy: The market leader of the Cognac world, Hennessy commands a 50% market share globally. It was found by an Irishman, Richard Hennessy in 1765 and today is owned the conglomerate LVMH. They claim to have over 70 cellars in Cognac.
Delamain: Established in 1759, Delamain is one of the oldest and still family run Cognac house. They make only Grand Champagne Cognacs and only XO Cognac which put them in the top tier immediately.
Pierre Ferrand: This house was only found in 1989 and emphasises on 100% Grand Champagne Cognacs which are richer in style. They do not use the known VS, VSOP nomenclature but use proprietary ones. One called the Reserve which is equivalent of a VSOP is available in India.
Otard: Made in the building Chateau de Cognac where Francis the 1st the initiator of the French renaissance was born, Otard was found in 1795 by Jean Baptiste Otard. He was the Mayor of Cognac until his death. The brand is owned by Bacardi now. This Cognac ages in cellars which are at the level of the Charente river with very high humidity and dry cellars over ground which give more blends for the final.
Camus: A family owned company found in 1863, Camus starting 1990s emphasizes on Borderies and also have a 100% Borderies XO Cognac which is their signature. They are also one of those have wine aged expressions in their repertoire.
Courvoisier: Being the only official supplier to Napoleon , Courvoisier has basked in the glory of the title ‘Brandy of the Napoleon’ ever since. They were also the Cognac to toast the ‘unveiling’ of the Eiffel tower.
Godet: Found in 1783, this is an outlier of the lot as the house is based in La Rochelle a town in Cognac on the Atlantic coast. Going back in history this was the town where the technology of distillation met the wines of today Back then they called it "Brandwijn" in Dutch which translated to burnt wine.Today Cognac is the greatest of the burnt wines in the world.
Hine: Found in 1763 and based in heart of the Grande Champagne , Hine is know for its vintage Cognacs and specially "Hine Early-Landed Vintage Cognac" the barrels of which are aged in the damp cellars in Bristol, England. This English connection goes back to Thomas Hine who was originally English.
One counter of the breakfast buffet at my hotel in Athens had an exquisite decanter like bejeweled bottle which read ‘Tsikoudia’ and some shot glasses. I saw people pouring a 40% something alcoholic beverage and sipping it alongside their eggs, cheese and pastries. I had never seen this culture before. Greece, certainly not the oldest civilization but the Greeks were the birthplace of the western philosophy. The idea of democracy, scientific and mathematics principles, literature and drama and more emerged from here. Given their strategic location in the midst of Asia, Africa and Europe, the Romans, the Persians and the Ottomans had their eras in Greece thus giving us a rich history and a reason to visit Greece. Of course islands, beaches, party zones are as much motivation to go holidaying on the islands. I had a different motivation to visit Greece, it was the gourmet angle. Baklava, Gyros and Souvlakis to Greece are like Pizzas and Pastas to Italy and I had my share of those. After that breakfast with Tsikoudia, I set out to find more about what the Greeks drink! Apart from their incredible wines and commonplace beers, here is a list of beverages you should try on your vacation to the islands this summer.
It is a pomace brandy made from pomace which is the residue of grape skins etc from the wine press. It is also called Tsikoudia on the island of Crete, the same one I had for breakfast. Tsipouro is best had chilled and neat however many people dilute it with water and ice. The beverage comes as is or with Anise flavouring and these days aged ones are also common.
This is perhaps the most recognizable spirit outside of Greece, an anise flavoured spirit which turns cloudy when mixed with water. It takes its roots from Tsipouro which was created my monks in the 14th century and their anise version got to be known as Ouzo. Ouzo only became popular in the 20th century with the downfall of Absinthe. Ouzo is served with mezze or Greek appetizers and I loved it during the nip in the spring evenings.
It is brandy based liqueur which is flavoured with Mastic a resin drawn out of the Mastic tree. The resin also known as Arabic gum is known for its medicinal and antioxidant properties since millennia. The Mastica is produced in the island of Chios where the Mastic tree grows. Mastic translates to ‘gnash the teeth’ and is the root of the English word ‘masticate’. Mastica can be enjoyed in a variety of cocktails
Another drink with resin, this time pine resin used to flavour wine. 2000 years ago when wine used to be prone to oxidation, the amphorae or clay pots used to be sealed with pine resin , the pine kept the oxygen out but imparted flavour to the wine. When barrels came into the scene the resin became obsolete however the consumers enjoyed the resinous taste and Retsina stayed on and is popular even today.
It is a brand but I have included this here as it was the first Greek brandy which began selling in 1888 and since then survived both world wars, only one of the two companies to do so the other was a tobacco co. Metaxa is an oak-aged brandy mixed with fragrant muscat wines and then flavoured with natural herbs and floral extracts. Metaxa and Tonic and in cocktails Metaxa Juleps and other such long refreshing drinks are preferred.
There are gifts and there are gifts to impress. The way to the man’s heart is through his stomach believe some but some men with finer tastes in life have it through their liver. You got me; few things could be more impressive than the lady being proactive in setting up her man’s wine and spirit closet. One liver, so you better ensure that he is drinking the best. This valentine day here are some tipples you want to bedazzle your date with.
Johnnie Walker Green Label
An outlier from the JW portfolio, the Green is a blend of malts and has no grain whisky unlike other expressions from the range. You will find the elements from four corners of Scotland with hints of Talisker, Caol Ila, Cragganmore and Linkwood.
El Dorado 15 year old
Always in the top rums of the world, this Demerara rum takes its name from a river in Guyana. The brand from the only distilling co in the country is made in century old wooden stills; a rare treat. El Dorado is a sipping rum best had neat.
With the essence of grapefruit and other citrus elements, this gin is best had with a dry tonic with a slice of your favourite fruit, preferably citrus. I love to put in a mogra or Arabian Jasmine flower for that extra burst of aroma.
The bottle stands out amongst bourbon whiskies and the liquid doesn’t fail to impress. Aged in barrels made in their own cooperage this elixir shows nuances of prunes and figs with the freshness of orange, it is well rounded but more crisp than luscious.
Paul John Bold
This homegrown Single Malt from Goa is available in over 20 countries and scores over 94 points in the whisky bible. At 40 ppm peat this smoky whisky is likely to impress those who love their Islay malts.It is a perfect blend for making penicillins and sours too. If you are in the mood to splurge then Goa has another expression, the “Kanya’ which was adjudged Asian whisky of the year in the Whisky Bible.
Lastly don’t forget to look into your partner’s eyes when clinking your glasses or it will be 7 years of bad sex as per a French belief! Wish you a love filled Valentine’s Day.
Last time the piece I wrote on how Indian bars cheat customers drew a lot of ire from unscrupulous bars who thought that as a beverage professional I shouldn’t have written it and let the beans spill. Thankfully, the good bars were a happy lot. Now there is the other side of the story where bartenders sweat it out to delight their customers but are driven to the edge by the same guests. Here is what the Indian bartenders hate about their customers
There is no alcohol in my cocktail After all that alcohol that goes into making of an LIIT or such tall drinks, it is irritating for a bartender to hear complaints of less alcohol being poured. Please remember, the sweeter the cocktail the less is the perception of alcohol. Some bartenders for the customer’s sake or insistence pour that extra alcohol however it just doesn’t help the customer to be in control of their alcohol levels.
I will make my own drink
In a busy bar, customer’s often use their loyalty and recognition as a tool to pull out a bottle behind the bar and helping themselves with a drink. Imagine someone intruding into your space at work especially when the bartender’s are responsible to pay for alcohol shortages.
I love to Snap
Whistling, snapping one’s fingers and other such condescending behaviors to seek attention of a bartender certainly shows one’s upbringing or lack of one. Give respect and take respect, an adage still holds true.
I love to order after closing time
The last drinks were announced repeatedly but there will be a few customers who still want to order post closing time and they literally pester the gullible staff. Please remember the bartenders don’t go home as soon as the last customer leaves, they have their closing checklists and tasks to clean the bar and make it ready for the next day. Please be kind and stick to the timing, the bartender does have a life outside of work!
Am I running away?
When asked to clear the bills after a round of drinks at a busy bar, “Will pay it at the end, here is my credit Card.” is many a times the response. When the bartender insists, “Am I running away” is a certain response. Please remember you may not be a fraud, but there are enough ‘respectable looking people’ who come with stolen cards, cancelled cards with a plan to plunder as much in a given night. All such unpaid bills are often paid by the bartender from his salary. Next time, clear the bills and don’t be fussy.
Don’t you know I love free shots/discounts
A discount/ free shots/freebies etc which were a tool to delight the customer have become a norm these days. Alcohol is expensive and there are considerable costs to run a bar, if you get a discount great, you may wan’t to ask once, no harm; but please do not be persuasive and bothersome.
I want my drinks in 3 seconds
Drinks take time to make and a good bartender will always give you a good drink without shortcuts. Please be patient especially on a busy night, moreover if you see the bartenders trying their best.
I love a private bar counter
The bar counter may be a prime position to be at, but don’t be a jerk to block it during a busy night as there are other people trying to buy drinks, be a little more socially responsible.
I love to poke my nose!
Do not interrupt conversations between the bartender and a fellow guest. Everybody is trying to get their drinks; you will get your chance.
Are cocktails taking you for a ride?
The cocktail scene in the country is picking up however we are far away from even making a scratch on the world scene. The reasons being, not so knowledgeable customer, not so knowledgeable bar management and the third are the knowledgeable but unscrupulous businessmen. In the city there are very good VFM bars, there are very good luxury bars, there are average bars across price points and then there poor bars. The scariest of them of all are poor bars charging you a luxury price for all the frills around than the cocktail itself. What helps these bars fool you?
Solid Carbon or dry ice was originally used and still is to freeze things in the f&b context. The usage then extended to the creating a fog like effect in food displays and in todays dates it is rampantly being used for theatrics in cocktail and food presentations. The question is, does the smoke let the establishment charge you more? Also if the CO2 is coming touch with your drink, is the dry ice food grade? Lastly even if food grade dry ice is put in your individual drink, do ensure that it has vapourized completely as pieces of it can cause burns in your mouth.
This potent liquid with a potential to freeze a la minute is seemingly child’s play today as any person with a chef coat or a bartender’s attire is using it like mayo in a footlong. No wonder that a hapless victim’s gut was burnt on consuming a drink with liquid nitrogen somewhere in Gurgaon. At -196 degree Celsius it is to be treated as carefully as boiling water, if not more. Liquid nitrogen can enhance a cocktail or food experience but it is not the core of the food or drink. Why pay more for a gimmick?
Burgers in a mini truck, drinks out of a ceramic skull and other such presentations are great to catch ones attention but the point to ponder upon is; how are they cleaned? If you look at the crevices, no brush but only roaches and mould can reach there. Stay away from such glassware or ask the question… how do you clean them? Also in darker places, switch on your mobile torch and take a good look at the ‘train’ or ‘tractor’ that your food/drink was served in. You may be taken aback!
It is science meeting the art of cooking to create something wonderful but only if it is done right. With DIY molecular kits available, many are trying to get molecular to attract customers, but are they getting their act right!!! Next time you eating a sphere or a sphaghetti shot,ask yourself if you really enjoyed it and the taste or were you wowed by the term ‘molecular’. Most good bars have shunned this and gone back to basics with real fruit.
‘A monkey wielding a sword’ is the idiom that stands true for the usage of smoke guns today. The smoke from the gun is used to add that extra nuance to the drink but these young boys decimate it as there is no proper guidance. Most places use it as a gimmick than put it to real culinary use. It is all smoke and no fire.
These days with drives to cut down on sugar in soft drinks to packaged food, Cocktails can be offenders too. Many cocktail places lace their cocktails using cheap spirits with a variety of syrups, packaged juices and aerated drinks and these ticking sugar bombs will sooner or later grip you by your pancreas!
When was it the last time you tipped your dentist or your accountant?? Of course they also offered service but you didn’t seem the need to. Why? Did you feel they are as rich as you or perhaps richer? Did you think they might take offence as they are ‘professionals’? So many questions playing on my mind, I am sure they are playing on yours too now. To make things easy, when did you tip your waiter last?? If you did tip the waiter then why not tip an accountant?
Tipping these days euphemistically called the service charge is my opinion the cause of certain unsaid divide or classification of the society based on profession. Certain professions like in this case waiters or bartenders rely a lot on their tip for their day to day living; they yearn for those at the end of the day or month. This tipping culture in India I feel strips the profession of the self-respect that each profession should carry. Tipping is done more out of sympathy aka charity than it is out of delight considering tipping is applicable only in certain professions and those are not preferred work options for people.
Restaurants may argue about a mandatory service charge as they want their employees to get paid for service, of course I do not deny that but isn’t it their job and aren’t they getting a salary to do it??? Why should a customer pay that extra 10% over host of other taxes?? If the organizations think their associates deserve more; then why not hike up the menu by 10% and distribute amongst staff as sales incentives. You wouldn’t want to leave them to the mercy of the customers, you would want to become that company that cares and respects their employees.
On the flipside, baksheesh raj also affects the levels of service; customers receive it based on their looks, the way they dress, the color of their skin and more and the hotel or restaurant associates are more likely to cling to those who are more likely to tip based on their naïve judgment and this is potentially harmful for the brand. So many restaurants where I feel foreigners get better treatment that their Indian counterparts purely based on an assumption of the former’s propensity to tip.
No job is menial and each job should be perceived with equal respect. Tipping or no there are enough divides and tipping just adds to getting a particular profession that ‘sympathetic’ angle. Pays in hospitality are low and given there is no self-respect too, not many people want to associate with it and if this persists the industry shall struggle to get skilled workforce to join then and this will take the standard of the entire industry down.
If you are an organization that wants to make a difference, then start sales incentives and have a no tipping policy. You will be the change!
As we peer into the Celtic twilight to figure the history of today’s whisky, we realize that it is as cloudy and misty as the Scottish highlands. The modern history of the liquid which goes back 600 years tells us that it all began in Ireland and then travelled to the Isles of Scotland and then the mainland. The word whisky derives from the Irish ‘Uisce beatha’ or Gaelic ‘Uisge Beatha’ both meaning ‘water of life’. This World Whisky Day celebrated every year on the third Saturday of May, here are my five whisky picks you should try if you haven’t already….. Just gives us Indians another reason to drink our favorite dark spirit!
Blender’s Pride - India:
A very popular brand which uses the fashion route for surrogate advertising is a blend of Indian grain spirit and Scotch malt. Considering the molasses and ENA (Extra Neutral Alcohol) whiskies that India is infamous for, this brand does great justice and in fact is good alternative for many blended Scotch whiskies. Do not undermine it considering its measly price of Rs 1150 a bottle, try this whisky blind with your imports and you will know.
Woodford Reserve – USA:
The bottle stands out amongst bourbon whiskies and the liquid doesn’t fail to impress. Aged in barrels made in their own cooperage this elixir shows nuances of prunes and figs with the freshness of orange, it is well rounded but more crisp than luscious.
Wolfburn – Scotland:
This is mainland Scotland’s most northerly distillery and it is built 350m away from the ruins of a 19th century distillery from where it gets It name; making the Wolfburn one of the youngest too. The whisky is aged in ex-Islay cask which gives the dram that smoke and the maritime character is induced by proximity to the sea, a factor often seen in highland malts by the coast.
Paul John Bold – India:
This one is making India proud. This Single Malt from Goa is available in over 20 countries and scores over 94 points in the whisky bible. At 40 ppm peat this smoky whisky is likely to impress those who love their Islay malts. It is a perfect blend for making Penicillin and sours too. It is available in Maharashtra, Karnataka, Goa, Chandigarh and now Delhi.
Chivas Regal 18 – Scotland:
‘Get me two bottles of Chivas on your way back from your trip abroad’ is a common request I am sure many of us are familiar with. However this is for the 12 year variant, have you ever tried the 18 year old elixir?? A rich liquid reminiscent of orange peels, vanilla, sweet spice and dried stone fruits will surely get you indulging.
Whiskies or any other spirit which has taken that long to age demands our time to be enjoyed and that too very slowly. I say a small shot of aged whisky should go for 30 minutes, sip and bask in the wooded glory for sometime before the next sip. A neat dram of whisky at around 15 degree Celsius is the perfect shot and if you think otherwise then drown it in milk, soda or whatever, you are the paying consumer and you have a choice to have it your way!
‘This Father’s Day the perfect gift for your dad is whisky’ would be one of the many ads that might pop on your social pages. I am sure that one’s whisky loving father is happy anytime you get him a bottle of liquid sunshine. Moreover many even would like the same brand over years! So this Father’s day why don’t you help him open his horizons and get him know more about whisky, a different elixir with a different history, the Bourbon. Perhaps this will stay with him longer than that bottle of whisky …
Bourbon whisky was named after the Bourbon, one of the original counties of Kentucky when the latter was still a part of Virginia. The early settlers in the 1700s, the Scots, Northern Irish, the Germans and the Americans from the east (who were used to rye) quickly understood the positives of producing a spirit based out the native-corn considering corn was in plenty and difficult to transport due to bulk. This corn spirit transported in wooden barrels down the Ohio and the Mississippi Rivers to New Orleans aged during the voyage and was appreciated at the final destination and began to be called the ‘Bourbon Whisky’. In the 1780s Reverend Elijah Craig; the father of Bourbon whiskey took a step further to char the barrels from inside which today is responsible for the distinctive nose and color of a Bourbon. Now why did he char it has its own line-up of lore. Bourbon is now recognized or believed to be the only ‘native American spirit’ and can be made anywhere in the United States.
Now what does it take to be a Bourbon!
Minimum 51% corn
The Mash bill as they call it is the proportion of grains the distiller uses to make the whisky. To be called Bourbon the whiskey has to contain at least 51% corn. Different distillers would adjust the mash bill based on the nuances they wish to achieve. For example the Woodford Reserve uses 18% Rye in its blend which lends spicier notes to the finished product and in Bulleit it is 28% which make it spicier. The other grain used is Barley and some Bourbon distilleries are tried their hand at malt whiskies too.
Aged in charred new oak barrels
‘Straight’ is the word you need to look for on the label. When it says straight Bourbon it has to age for a minimum of 2 yrs in charred new American oak barrels and it can just go in for a day for it to be called only Bourbon. Bulleit has no age statement but is typically aged between 6-8 yrs and so is Buffalo trace for the same average period. Some distilleries also experiment with different oak influences like the Maker’s Mark 46 which sees French Oak Staves for that French elegance.
Whilst Bourbon can be made anywhere in the USA, 95% of it comes from Kentucky. The iron free water which is rich in calcium and magnesium is most preferred for distillation and that has kept the industry flourishing over the last 200 years. Jack Daniel’s, you finally hear it! JD is a Tennessee whisky which starts its life as Bourbon and then undergoes a process of Maple Charcoal filtration also called the Lincoln County process which finally renders it to be a Tennessee whiskey. To be a Tennessee it has to be made in Tennessee unlike bourbon. So JD is not a Bourbon!
To be termed Bourbon it has to be bottled at more than 40% alcoholic strength and can go into the barrel at no more than 62.5%. This lower strength of alcohol while going into the barrel is to ensuring slow and steady aging than leeching of flavour with a high alcoholic spirit. The Maker’s Mark Cask Strength is bottled at 54-57% ABV (alcohol by volume)
No Caramel, No Colour!
‘Straight bourbon whiskey’ doesn’t allow the use of any additives, just water. When it says only Bourbon then it does allow a small percentage of additives to enhance the liquid.
Now all of the above being a given for bourbons, distilleries try and differentiate themselves with the shape of stills they use, pot stills in addition to a column, the location of the warehouses, years in aging and of course the water source, these contribute to the final elixir in the bottle. I will leave you with a few images from our recent Kentucky visit and some brands to lay hands on your next visit to the USA.
Pappy Van Winkle
Makers Mark 46
Woodford Double Oaked
(The last two also make fantastic Rye whiskies; I will leave them for some other day)
P.S: Use of Whisky or Whiskey is completely at your discretion. Nobody cares as long as the whiskeee is good!
Radico Khaitan one of the biggest liquor cos in the country may have tasted first blood when they introduced Suntory the Japanese whisky giant to India in 2011 or maybe it had something envisaged already, as the casks rested at the foothills of the Himalayas. Radico Khaitan has finally unveiled ‘Rampur’ a Single malt whisky at the WSWA convention in Las Vegas.
Radico Khaitan was formerly called the Rampur distillery, the distillery was established in 1943 and it takes us back to the time of the raj. A 15 Gun Salute princely state of British India - Rampur is known for its rich heritage and royal traditions. Rampur is one of the homes of Urdu poetry and Hindustani music and is also the home to a very distinct style of architecture, cuisines and interestingly, knife making. Taking forward the rich heritage of Rampur and the 75 years of distillation expertise, the pioneers Radico have carefully hand-crafted the Single Malt- Rampur. “Our aim is to create a valuable customer experience, consistent with the company’s brand assurance. We are adding a new step to this wonderful journey with Rampur Indian Single Malt. Let this gift of the Royal Heritage give you a 15 Gun Salute!” said CMD Lalit Khaitan.
The malt will be available soon in international markets and travel retail with India to follow. Prices awaited!
More power to India and Indian whisky!
Nothing can bring out the essence of the product more than its history and if the history spans over 5 centuries then it gets even more interesting. Rum akin to a few other spirits has seen its ups and downs and can certainly make for a good documentary! Let us look at how it all began for Rum….
Sugarcane moves East to West
The Indian sugarcane industry which fuels many a political heavy weights in the country also has its share of the pie when one speaks of the genesis of Rum. In 350 BC; Indians were consuming a fermented sugarcane beverage and as sugarcane travelled from east to the west the knowledge of cane juice fermentation spread. Fast forward to the 13th century when the French physicist Arnaud had distilled grape for a potent potable spirit, distillation was the new trend. Marco Polo the traveler during his travels during the same period also found a drink in Indonesia made out of Red Rice and Sugarcane juice and wrote it in his travelogues and this led to lot of merchants from Italy importing the drink. It is also said that this drink may have led the Russians to start making their own spirit, Vodka of today! The Spanish and Portuguese in the 14th picked up colonies in the islands close by like the Canary and Madeira and sugar was grown there, sugar was considered a spice and was everyone vied for the control of the industry; beverage was still not on their minds. It is only after Columbus went westwards and landed in the Caribbean that the sugarcane beverage flourished.
Rumble in the Caribbean:
The Portuguese were the first ones to make spirit in Brazil in the 16th century, now called the Cachaca and then called ‘crazy sugarcane juice’ in the local dialect. The Dutch known for their sailing prowess and of course Gin established Caribbean colonies in the 17th century and starting actively making Sugarcane spirit not just out of juice but also molasses the byproduct of the sugar industry. They called it Kyldevel which was later anglicized to Kill Devil by the English who had taken over many Spanish colonies. The Dutch passed on their knowledge of cane distillation to the English too and the latter eventually called the drink Rumbullion, a term commonly used in West England referring to great tumult, what else would one expect as an aftermath of people drinking a 70% spirit!
Royal Navy Rum:
Beer was slowly being replaced by rum as daily ration in the British Navy as Beer couldn’t survive the seas. It all began in 1687 and by 1731 the Rum completely replaced beer, it was a pint of 70 % ABV as opposed to a Gallon of beer. Over the decade Rum had created enough Rumbullion for the admiral to dilute their drinks with water, sugar and lime juice and the men called it the Old Grog after the admiral who used to wear a Grogram coat. You will see variants aplenty of this drink, cocktails of today!
The invention of patent still in 1832 affected most spirit categories and Rum was no exception. Before the patent still, Rums were dark and big and when Cuba adopted patent still for the first time in the 1860’s to make lighter style rum other followed and over 1600 distilleries adopted the method and it spread. Light rums became the delight of the bartenders then a profession which was gathering momentum. Today Cuban and Puerto Rican rums are known for their lighter style rums.
The rise of cocktails and the Tiki Culture:
The late 1800’s saw the rise of rum and rum cocktails, Daiquiri, Cuba Libre, Dark n Stormy were popular. The American prohibition helped the Rum Cause even more when the wealthy of America came down south for rum and bootlegger like the famous McCoy took the rum northwards to thirsty Americans. 1931 saw the listing of Mojito at the Sloppy Joe’s bar in Cuba. The repeal of prohibition in 1933 saw the rise of grain spirits saw the decline of Rum only to go up again with the advent of the Tiki culture. Don Beach who opened up a Tiki themed bar in Hollywood served heady rum cocktail using myriad ingredients and with a lot of fresh juices. The Zombie was one of his most popular. The Trader Vic who drew inspiration from Don Beach was known for the Mai Tai a cocktail which depleted rum stocks in Jamaica and pushed up Jamaican Rum prices. The mid-late 1900’s saw a dip in the popularity of Rum and the rise of other grain spirits, majorly Vodka.
Rum over the last two decades is gaining popularity with the advent of internet, the travelling consumer, the travelling bartender and Rum expos the most popular being the UK Rum fest. People now have gone back to the Pre-grog days of sipping rums neat as they have plentiful options of beautifully aged rums from across the world, primarily the Caribbean!
Every Rum making nation have their own set of regulations or maybe not. The WIRSPA ( West Indies Rum and Spirits Producers’ Association Inc.) comprising 15 Caribbean country associations have set up common production standards and certify their rum as 'Authentic Caribbean Rum' if it follows the following guidelines.
-Rum must be fermented and distilled in one or more of these countries from product of sugar cane origin
-Additives are not permitted
-Where a statement of maturity and/or age is given:
o It shall be that of the youngest distilled spirit in the product
o The rum shall have been matured in wooden vats or barrels for not less than one year
Some other Rum labelling terms are as below:
Rhum Agricole: Rum made from Sugarcane juice
Rhum Industriel: Rum made from Molasses, a byproduct of sugar production. Doesn’t indicate inferior quality but a lighter taste profile
Light Rums: They are clear, mostly unaged light bodied rums perfect for cocktails. Puerto Rica, Cuba, Trinidad etc are known for this style of Rums. E.G: Havana Club, Angostura
Golden or Amber Rums: These age in oak barrels for several years to create a medium bodied spirit rich in Oak influences .Barbados, Jamaica, Venezuela etc make this style of rums
Dark Rums: They are heavy, luscious and heavy on oak aged aromas. Most of them could be drunk neat. Guyana, Jamaica, the French islands of Martinique and Haiti etc are known for its full bodied styles. One style you must try are Demerara Rums from Guyana, they are spicy and sweet with a hint of smoke. For E.G: El Dorado 12
Cachaca: Brazilian spirit made out of cane juice and unaged. Best known for its use in Caipirinhas!
Aged Statement: Just like whiskies some Rum cos will have an age on the label. Depending on the region that number would indicate the oldest or the youngest Rum in the blend. Last words, the numbers on a Rum bottle can be misleading unless of course you know of the country regulations.
Rum Cocktails: Mojito, Daiquiri, Pinacolada, Zombie, MaiTai, Planter’s Punch and Hot Buttered Rum…
This is a good start to rums, whilst one could certainly be an Old Monk fan forever!
Vodka is a colourless, flavourless, odourless spirit; it is what most people would say about Vodka, they are wrong! Like most other wines and spirits, Vodka also has a history and a story to tell, let’s take you through it before we give you brief pointer on identifying vodkas based on ingredients….
16th- 19th century:
Vodka comes from the term Woda or Voda means little water and both Russia and Poland claim it to be their invention. This ‘little water’ initially was used for medicinal purposes and was macerated with various herbs and sweetened but only in the 16th century that it began to be consumed for pleasure. In the same period Russia, Sweden, Poland and Finland saw a huge rise in Vodka distilleries and it was made from all things grain. The popularity continued to grow and it grew so much that Catherin the great from Russia and King Gustaf of Sweden actually made it a monopoly by making the whole industry state owned, this was in the 18th century. Today potato vodka is a luxury however distillation from potatoes began in Sweden in1746 when failed harvests leading to a grain shortage and Poland eventually made potato vodkas their specialty.
Vodka and War:
Vodka had got very popular however it was restricted to Eastern Europe and Scandinavian countries often called the vodka belt. Smirnoff which started in 1818, Absolut in 1877 gave the product a great push to an extent that there were calls of prohibition in early 1900s and Sweden finally saw rationing of Vodka and most other vodka belt countries saw a 10-20 year ban on selling and consumption of Alcohol. The market of vodka went down and adding to it was the US prohibition, the US however didn’t have much access to Vodka anyways. The 1930 cocktail book by Harry Craddock listed more than 100 cocktail recipes but only 2 of them had vodka in it and if you were to look at bar menus now, it is a sea change!
Smirnoff who had fled to the USA during the Russian revolution started Smirnoff in the US in 1934 and the same year saw the first Vodka cocktail competition in the country. The Dry Martini and the Moscow Mule were doing their bit for Vodka. Ian Fleming’s Casino Royale the James Bond series pushed the category even further and Vodka became aspirational after Bond’s Vesper Martini. Soon after US and the UK saw an influx of brands from the east and Vodka had officially arrived.
Rise of Cocktails:
Cocktails had started to get popular in the 80’s and first flavoured vodka was launched in the market. Absolut Peppar was the one and was introduced as a base spirit for Bloody Marys which were very popular then. The end of the communism in the east saw privatization of brands and emerged the trend of luxury vodkas in all avatars, glacial water, and diamond filtered, n times filtered etc etc and after a while the differentiation diminished. The category continues to grow, you can now check a bar menu and see the number of cocktails with vodka in it! As the distilling cos say “Vodka pays the bills’.
Lastly how to identify Vodka based on ingredients:
Potato: Mashed potato nose with a creamy and full palate E.g. Chase, Chopin
Barley: Malty on the nose with a hint of sweet spice, begins on a sweet note and with a dry finish E.g. Finlandia, Sipsmith
Rye: Very prominent Rye bread nose with a very spicy finish on the palate E.G. Belvedere, Wyborowa, Chopin Rye
Grape: Lime and lemon scented, you can’t miss this one E.g. Ciroc
Wheat: Some show citrus and some anise and some toasted wheat kernel like aromas… E.g.Absolut Elyx, 42 Below, Ketel One
There are more to ingredients like quinoa, spelt, rice etc coming out from the new trend of micro distilleries. After all this, please remember that if you douse your vodka with juices and syrups and still are able to figure your vodka then you must be drunk!