Whisky buyer, collector or investor? You need to know about Cask Trade.

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There’s a new whisky cask trader in town and it’s dubbed the first, truly ‘trustworthy marketplace for trading exceptional whisky casks’.

Introducing Cask Trade: founded by entrepreneur and angel investor Simon Aron with help from our very own Drinker, Colin Hampden-White and several other famous whisky masters including Lee Tomlinson ‘The Trader’ and Dr. Theo Empleslidis MD, ‘The Oracle’.

As a passionate whisky collector for over 25 years who has seen astronomical gains in the value of some whiskies over the years, Simon had been burned many times by sellers in the past, becoming frustrated with false promises and dishonest dealing. Now was the time, he decided, to create a much more open and honest marketplace for investors, bottlers and collectors. 

An expert-led approach

Thanks to their crack team of experts team of masters, Cask Trade offer unparalleled whisky trade expertise to their clients and guarantee the most stringent checks and processes, so customers can rely wholeheartedly on the quality, provenance and ownership of any whisky they buy. All customers can ask to receive samples of their whisky or to visit their cask whenever possible and Cask Trade only sells whisky it owns itself, in whole casks.

“We are not brokers but stockists,” says Aron. ‘Our aim is to build a true, and safe, marketplace… We are six experts covering all angles of the cask whisky trade and we have clients from all around the world. Having traded thousands of casks, our knowledge of whisky and its value is our most valuable asset. Throughout my 25-years’ of collecting I suffered from all sorts of false promises which I will never subject my clients to.”

To view a live stock list, register an account today at casktrade.com.

The first live auction website dedicated to exceptional whisky

As an extra plus, customers also have the option to put their casks into Cask Trade’s new quarterly online auction to sell, either to other customers or eventually, back to Cask Trade themselves. With complete transparency, a low buyers’ fee of 15% + VAT and no sellers’ fee at all, customers get the actual hammer price. The first auction will take place in October 2019 and will then be hosted four times a year. See more at auctionyourcask.com.

For more information on whisky cask investment, Simon and his team offer frequent editions of Cask Trade’s Cask Investment Guide

A new, ultra rare Champagne icon: Armand de Brignac, Blanc de Noirs Assemblage Three

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If you don’t know Armand de Brignac champagne by name, you will certainly know it by sight. With five cuvées (styles) in the range, you’ll spot them a mile off in their iconic, metallic gold, silver, pink, purple and platinum-coloured bottles. Yes, it’s the brand owned by rapper Shawn ‘JAY-Z’ Carter, but it’s worth noting that these ‘ultra-prestige’ champagnes have been crafted by the Cattier family, who have been making wine in and around the Montagne-de-Reims for thirteen generations, so they know a thing or two. 

These champagnes command the highest prices as they are made in tiny quantities, using extremely selective methods and meticulous attention to detail. Without the pressures of creating huge volumes, they say they are free to craft the most ‘perfect’ wines possible. Armand de Brignac only use the first half of the first press of grapes for their cuvées (the best bit). In the case of the Blanc de Noirs however, they use only the first third of the first press, meaning it takes even more grapes to craft a single bottle. 

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Armand de Brignac, Blanc de Noirs ‘A3’

The Blanc de Noirs ‘Assemblage 3’ (A3) is only the third Blanc de Noirs Armand de Brignac have ever produced, the first being released in 2015. Only 3535 bottles of this release were created and each is inscribed with its own number. Like the other four cuvées in the range, A3 is a blend of three vintages: 2009, 2010 and 2012 and as the name ‘Blanc de Noirs’ suggests, is made with only red grapes: 100% Pinot Noir in this case - no Pinot Meunier, the other red grape that would have been permitted. Winemaker Jean-Jaques Cattier says the following of this wine:

“Because of the power that comes from using 100% red fruit, it can be a challenge to achieve a balanced Blanc de Noirs… Using only parcels of only the very best Pinot Noir, we’re able to meticulously balance the acidity and sugar, achieving a Blanc de Noirs style with integrity to the powerful style, but with balance and texture.”

Winemaker Jean-Jacques Cattier with Armand de Brignac CEO Sebastien Besson

Winemaker Jean-Jacques Cattier with Armand de Brignac CEO Sebastien Besson

What does Armand de Brignac Blanc de Noirs A3 taste like?

With an attractive, copper- gold hue, this is a champagne that is understated when first poured, but opens up quickly and changes with every sip, each time offering a new note you hadn’t spotted before. Exceptionally complex, it gives rich brioche notes with crisp, red apple skin and blackcurrant leaf flavours. There’s a subtle vanilla pastry creaminess and a light citrus finish that really lifts the wine and balances the richness and power. A gastronomic wine at its finest and the ‘yin’ to Armand de Brignac’s Blanc de Blanc ‘yang’.

What to eat with A3?

The complexity and power of this extraordinary champagne means it will suit many fine dining dishes, both sweet and savoury. The house suggests foie gras, lamb tagine with apricots, spiced rack of lamb and Clafoutis with fresh, dark fruits. Now we’re hungry!

A3 Fact & Figures

Grapes: 100% Pinot Noir

Villages grapes sourced from: Bouzy, Verzenay, Chigny-les-Roses,Ludes & Rilly-la-Montage.

Multi Vintage: Base of 2012 with 2010 and 2009

Number of bottles produced: Only 3535

Disgorgement date: April 9th, 2019

Dosage: 8g/l

ABV: 12.5%

Sizes available: 750ml only

Drinking window: Drinking now but can be kept until 2030 in the right conditions.

RRP: £1,095 per bottle.

Stockist: Available exclusively from Harrods from Sept 19th until November 16th

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By Helena Nicklin




Spotlight on: Greyfriars Vineyard, Surrey Hills, England

All eyes are on English wine at the moment. Let’s face it; there’s not much else to be proud of about our country right now, so the fact that English wines are soaring in terms of quality and innovation is just what we need. 

A welcome break from the madness of London, we three took a trip down to Greyfriars Vineyard in the sunny, Surrey Hills. You may have whizzed past them on the Hog’s Back at Puttenham on the way out West but we very much suggest you stop in next time. Alternatively, you can jump on a train from Waterloo to Guildford and be there in less than 40 minutes. 

Greyfriars has been part of the English wine scene since 2010 when owners Mike and Hilary Wagstaff took over, having decided to make the move to winemaking from engineering and law respectively. Their aim was to expand the vineyards already there and to grow them from hobby scale to boutique commercial scale. When they took over the vines from the previous owners, they were planted mostly to Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, which was quite unusual at the time, but rather fortuitous given how well those varieties are now performing. “Most people were growing horrible German hybrids,” says Mike. Luckily for them, the chalky hills had already proved their worth for the vines. All that was left was to smarten up the winemaking and do some planting. “We’ve now gone from 1.5 acres to 40 acres, so 16 hectares,” says Mike. “Big enough to be serious but we’re not a huge conglomerate.”

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The Wines

In the nine years under the Wagstaffs, Greyfriars have made a splash with their distinctive, authentic wines and eye-catching branding. They now boast and impressive range of thirteen  wines, each with a signature style, reflecting the unique local soils and climate.

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The Non Vintage Sparkling Range

Three crisp, refreshing sparklers await you at a seriously impressive price for what they are. The non vintage sparkling cuvée (£18.50) is an elegant blend of the three ‘champagne’ grapes: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and touch of Pinot Meunier. The non vintage rosé (£18.50), made from 100% Pinot Noir is pale and pretty with a red apple skin tang. The unique non vintage sparkling fumé (£18.50) however is certainly one to try. 100% bubbly Sauvignon Blanc, it’s zippy, herbaceous and citrussy. A true point of difference. All three are excellent for the price and happily, relatively low in alcohol at 11.5%! 

The top-end non vintage wine however is the blancs de noirs (made entirely with black grapes). It’s 60% Pinot Noir, 40% Pinot Meunier and has a moreish, fleshy texture with beautiful red fruit aromatics. £30 and worth every penny. 

The Vintage Sparkling Range

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Seriously special, these vintage wines feel like a big step up. The 2014 Classic Cuvée is fleshy and rich (£23). The limited edition Cuvée Royale 2015 is extraordinary. A blend of 50:50 Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, is has an unctuous mouthfeel with brioche notes and poise from the red fruit. And finally, there’s the 2014 Oaked Blanc de Blancs: a wine made from 100% Chardonnay with a tropical note and vanilla finish. Delicious!

The Still Wines
Greyfriars make a range of still wines too, usually single varietal and grapes you don’t usually associate with England: Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay and also, a strawberry- scented still rosé. All priced at £13.50, you could try a mixed case and taste them all!

See more about Greyfriars Vineyard on the website here.

Buy the wines here.

Address: Greyfriars Vineyard, The Hogs Back, Puttenham, Surrey, GU31AG, England, UK

It’s Wine Tax Freedom Day! Join the movement

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The 12th August 2019 is Wine Tax Freedom Day! So what is that? Why is it important and how can you help?

33 million people in the UK drink wine. Fact. It is now officially the UK’s most popular alcoholic drink according to most recent ONS data*, yet tax on wine has risen significantly faster than for other alcohol types over the last ten years. New movement ‘Wine Drinkers UK’ are calling on the UK Government to cut wine duty at the next budget and address a decade of unfair treatment compared to other alcoholic drinks.

Since 2010, excise duty on wine has increased by 39% compared with just 16% for beer and 27% for cider and spirits. In real terms, for wine bought to consume at home (i.e. not in bars and restaurants), this means that consumers pay £3.06 tax on every bottle of still wine (£2.23 on duty + 83p on VAT ). For a £5 bottle of wine, that equates to 61% tax! Sparkling and fortified wine have even more duty.

Why now? After a decade of unfair increases and in the light of the recent social findings over two surveys taken nationally and regionally, it’s time to address this. The lazy assumption has always been that wine is only drunk by the wealthier, ABC1 classes. What these surveys show is that wine is the drink of choice for just as many ordinary, working people (C2DE). 80% of the UK population over 18 drink alcohol and of these, 81% drink wine. That equates to 33 million wine drinkers, all being taxed unfairly highly. If you consider that the price hikes on non-UK wines are being exacerbated by the devaluation of stirling too and that this is only going to get worse, then now really is the time to act. 

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How much of a bottle price is duty? Duty on a 75cl bottle of still wine (between 5.5% and 15% ABV) is £2.23. On sparkling wine, such as prosecco and champagne, duty is even higher at £2.86. If fortified wine is your thing (between 15% and 22% ABV) then duty is even higher, at £2.98. The UK pays more tax on wine than any other country in the world. Its total alcohol duty revenue is 12.1 billion, of which wine equates to 4.4 billion pounds. In fact, the British pay 68% of all wine duties in the EU! This even takes into account the high tax levels in other northern European countries.

Who sets drinks duty and is it the EU’s fault? No. Duty and VAT is set by the UK Government, not the EU. Brexit is impacting currency rates and therefore how much it costs to import wine. Eventually, this will have to be passed onto customers. It is assumed that all alcohol duty rates increase by Retail Price Index (RPI) inflation year-on-year at the annual budget. However, the UK Government can decide to freeze or cut duty on different alcohol beverages as it wishes.  

How can you get involved? Support Wine Drinkers UK on social media by retweeting twitter messages, posting on instagram and using the hashtag #CutBackWineTax. Twitter: @WineDrinkersUK .

Who are Wine Drinkers UK? Wine Drinkers UK is backed by several wine companies, agents and merchant with support from the Wine and Spirit Trade Association and wine media,.

*THE SURVEY

Wine Drinkers UK carried out two surveys with YouGov: a national survey with over 2,000 UK adults and a regional survey in 8 additional cities with over 3,200 UK adults (400 adults in each city. The total sample size was 2072 adults. The figures are representative of all UK adults (aged 18+).

  • Gender: male (958); female (1114)

  • Age: 18-24 (193); 25-34 (203); 35-44 (370); 45-54 (375); 55+ (828)

  • Social grade: ABC1 (1229); C2DE (843)

  • Region: A representative breakdown across all regions covering England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

The latest ONS figures show that 20% of UK adults are teetotal, which means 80% of the UK’s population drinks alcohol.

According to the latest population data from ONS there are 52.3m people over the age of 18 in the UK, which means 41.8m drink alcohol (when taking into account 20% being tee-total).

81% of people in our nationally representative survey said they drink wine which means there are 33.9m wine drinkers in the UK.

By Helena Nicklin



23 Unusual Facts About Whisky

Visit Islay with a Rabbie’s tour.

Our friends at Rabbie’s, our travel partner for our Scotch whisky travelogue series on Amazon Prime, have given us 23 fun facts about whisky. How many of them did you know already?

Bernard Shaw described whisky as liquid sunshine, and we can’t help but agree. Although the sunshine can be a little bothersome the next morning when you’ve indulged in one too many glasses.

Mark Twain begs to differ, however, as he’s famous for boldly declaring “Too much of anything is bad, but too much good whiskey is barely enough.”

What could we possibly have to tell you about whisky that you haven’t heard from these great poets, playwrights and avid whisky drinkers? You’d be surprised. Whisky has a long history and its makers and consumers are fond of a good blether. 

So whether you’re a whisky aficionado or have only just begun your love affair, you may be surprised by a few of the following facts:

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  1. Whisky or Whiskey - what’s the difference? The Irish spell it with an ‘e’ whereas the Scots spell it without one. This is due to the variations between Scottish and Irish Gaelic.

  2. The New York Times famously used the word ‘whiskey’ with an ‘e’ to encompass all forms of the spirit from all locations. This caused so much outrage amongst readers, they were forced to change their style guide to reflect the appropriate spelling for their regional distribution.

  3. Many distilleries store casks of whisky belonging to other brands and distilleries in their warehouses. This way, if a fire or catastrophe occurs, they won’t lose all their stock. 

  4. The term whisky in Gaelic translates to ‘water of life.’

  5. When whisky is stored in barrels for maturation, approximately 2% of the liquid evaporates per year. This is called the ‘Angel’s Share’ as this portion of liquid gold seemingly disappears into the heavens. It keeps the angels in good spirits.

  6. Moonshine is typically un-aged whisky with a high alcohol content, which is made illegally. It’s called moonshine because it would be created under the light of the moon, hidden from the eyes of the authorities.

  7. A bottle of Macallan Valerio Adami 1926, 60-year-old was sold for £848,750 in 2018, setting a new world record for the most expensive bottle of whisky.

  8. Whisky doesn’t age once it’s bottled. So there isn’t much point in saving it for a rainy day, just crack it open when you feel like it.

  9. Whisky gains its colour from the barrel it’s aged in. Sometimes, for the sake of product image, brands may put caramel colouring in a batch to make the whisky look more consistent when bottled on the shelf. The additive isn’t supposed to affect the taste of the whisky. 

  10. Scotland relies on a constant supply of oak casks previously used to store bourbon in the US for maturing whisky.

  11. Much of the flavour of a batch of whisky will depend upon what was stored in the cask previously. Bourbon, sherry, rum and port casks all generate different finishing flavours.

  12. A Swedish distillery has just started using AI to help generate the perfect whisky recipe based on past and current consumer trends.

  13. Surprisingly, France and India are two of the biggest consumers of whisky, alongside the US. 

  14. The iconic American soda brand Mountain Dew was originally intended to be a chaser for sub-par whisky.

  15. Just as the Brits say “cheers”, the Germans shout “prost” and the Spanish yell “salood,” you’ll find the Scots chinking whisky glasses and saying “Slainte,” which means “good health,” as they share a dram with friends.

  16. Contrary to popular belief, nosing isn’t the act of sticking your conk in other people’s business. It’s what you do when you inhale the aromas of a fine whisky before drinking it.

  17. A copper dog is a device that was used by distillery workers to smuggle whisky home after a hard day at work. It’s copper pipe with a penny soldered on one end and a cork stopping the other. A wily employee would dip it into the cask to fill it with whisky, and then smuggle it home in his trouser leg.

  18. When the TV show Mad Men hit the air, it spurred a significant spike in orders for Old Fashions at bars worldwide. In some areas, the demand for Canadian Club almost doubled.

  19. Diageo, one of the world’s largest distillers, released a Game of Thrones collection of Whisky in 2019, in preparation for the final season of the hit TV show. They paired Scottish distilleries with the prominent family houses of the seven kingdoms. Each was matched up carefully, considering house traits alongside distillery history. Cardhu was paired with house Targaryen for its past of strong female ownership. 

  20. Ardbeg, a popular Islay distillery, sent vials of their whisky to the International Space Station in 2011 to see how the gravity in space would affect compounds of the whisky over time.

  21. The term ‘dram’ widely adopted in the Scottish vernacular, is believed to have evolved from an apothecary’s units of measurement.

  22. Keeping with the theme of whisky and medicine, during the prohibition era the only whisky legally imported by the US was scotch whisky, as it was often prescribed to ease many illnesses.

  23. And last but not least, Humphrey Bogart’s final words are rumoured to have been “I should never have switched from scotch to martinis.” May we live and learn from Bogart’s mistakes.

Discover whisky for yourself on a tour with Rabbie’s here!

This is the world’s most popular spirit. Have you heard of it?

Question: Which spirit has 6,000 years of history, is the world’s most tasted alcoholic drink and reached 10.8 billion dollars worth of sales last year? 

Answer: Baijiu

What on earth is Baijiu?

Baijiu is the most popular grain spirit in China, especially in Sichuan province. Sorghum is usually the grain of choice but in some parts of the country, rice, barley and millet are used. It’s the world’s most popular spirit thanks to China’s population of over 1.4 billion but it’s still not known well at all outside the country. We were treated to a master class by the producer Fenjiu and their importer, Cheng International, to see what it was all about...

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What does Baijiu taste like?

A white spirit for the most part and usually between 40 and 60% abv, Baijiu is more like whisky in terms of complexity of flavour and texture. It’s traditionally drunk neat with food, though there are some nowadays that are deemed better for mixing. There are four key styles to look out for, all based on their flavour profiles, but dozens of sub categories too. What makes the difference in terms of aroma and flavour, much like wine, is the ageing vessel, the ingredients and the duration of ageing.

Credit: Cheng International CO. Ltd

Credit: Cheng International CO. Ltd

Key styles of Baijiu

Light Aroma: Light, elegant and subtley floral. Traditionally made in a stone vessel with sorghum. Hails from the north, around Beijing.

Strong Aroma: Fruity, tropical, aniseed, complex. Multiple grains, but aged in mud pits. Hails largely from Sichuan province in the southwest.

Sauce Aroma: Umami, soy, bean. Mostly sorghum but with multiple fermentations in stone brick pits.

Rice Aroma: Sweeter and mellow. Hailing from the south and often the lowest grade. 

Other ‘aromas’ and styles of Baijiu

There are many additional sub aromas of this intriguing spirit, which to Westerners can seem gloriously different. ‘Chi’ aroma comes from the addition of pork fat, for example, ‘medicine aroma’ exists, as does ‘sesame aroma’ amongst many others. There are also many regional variations. Fenjiu, for example, is an ‘aroma’ as well as the name of a producer. It is a light aroma Baijiu hailing from Fenyang, Shanxi and dates back to AD 550!

4 Baijius to try from light to strong

Fenjiu Baijiu aged 10 years: Clear white - A traditional, light Baijiu made from high quality sorghum grain and aged 10 years in earthen ceramic vessels. It’s fresh, floral and subtle with notes of jasmine, melon and dried herbs. Drink it neat or mixed in cocktails. RRP £65 coming soon to the UK. 

Blue Flower Fenjiu Baijiu 48% aged 30 years: Clear white - Aromatic and smooth with notes of citrus peel, vanilla, acacia and cinnamon. Best served neat or over ice. RRP £150 from Harrods.

Bamboo Fenjiu 38% aged 5 years (Zhu Ye Qing Jiu): Pale gold - Stronger notes of mocha and menthol with subtle curry leaf and soy from the bamboo infusion. Best served mixed. RRP £60 from Harrods.

Bamboo Fenjiu 45% aged 30 years (Zhu Ye Qing Jiu): Bright gold - Powerful aromas of curry leaf and sandalwood with underlying sweetness like banana and caramel. Sweeter texture. Best served neat. RRP £145 from Harrods.

The ultimate Baijiu cocktail: The Golden Empire

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With mixology playing a huge part in helping get Baijiu on lips outside China, Fenjiu launched their inaugural cocktail competition earlier this year. The winning result was a golden, moreish concoction featuring palo cortado sherry and vermouth, created by Andrea Dionori, mixologist at The Crazy Bear.

Ingredients:

  • 35ml Fenjiu 10 year old.

  • 10ml White Vermouth (preferred: Cocchi Americano)

  • 7.5ml Palo Cortado sherry

  • 10ml Homemade Palo Santo cordial (optional)

Baijiu is certainly an acquired taste for Westerners, but one that is not hard to acquire with a bit of, ahem, tasting practice. Look out for it as a key ingredient in the top cocktail bars around the world and if you see it, ask for a small pour to try neat. You’ll be tasting history.

By Helena Nicklin

Glencairn Crystal: Is this the ultimate whisky tasting glass?

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We certainly think so and here’s why...

When you have a drink, you want to enjoy it to the max, right? Well, luckily for us, around thirty years ago, the Davidson family set up Glencairn Crystal, based in East Kilbride, with the aim of helping us to do just that. A brand for both the consumer and the whisky industry alike, they produce a mixture of products including bespoke packaging for some of the oldest and most luxurious single malt whiskies ever released. They are also, however, commissioned to create a variety of other products including high-profile decanters, some of which are even engraved with rare gemstones! 

The Glencairn Glass 

Amongst all their products, there is one that stands out: the iconic, Glencairn Glass. We chose this glass for our TV show, The Three Drinkers do Scotch Whisky as it is the best designed, most attractive whisky glass out there. They are also the official glass for whisky endorsed by the Scotch Whisky Association, so it’s little wonder that over 65,000 of them are now sold per week globally.

Why is the Glencairn Glass so popular?

Before the Glencairn glass came along there were really only tumblers available for whisky drinkers which while serving their purpose as a holder of liquid, never really felt like they gave the whisky its full chance to shine. The Glencairn Glass however, has rectified this as its unique shape allows the aroma to collect towards the lip of the glass. With taste being 80% smell, this design ensures that the full impact of a whisky’s aromas and flavours are delivered in perfect balance. 

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Fun Facts! 

  1. If you stacked every Glencairn glass ever made, it would stretch to the international space station and back 3.5 times!

  2. If you lined up every Glencairn glass ever made, they’d reach a width of over 1600km, more than the entire length of New Zealand.

  3. If you filled every Glencairn glass ever made to the brim with whisky, there’d be enough to fill two Olympic sized swimming pools. That’s 5 million litres!

Glencairn Crystal works with 600 distilleries and ships to 95 countries so if you too are interested in getting your hands on the gold standard of whisky glasses head over to glencairn.co.uk

By Sophie Furukawa

Drink: A new cocktail book by Kurt Maitland

Photo: Bobby Childs

Photo: Bobby Childs

There are myriad cocktail books, past and new. Most of them are pretty good, but there is one which stands out beyond the others as the most comprehensive book on cocktails anyone could need. It is not only informative, but is lovely to look at, easy to read and manages to treat the reader with enough respect as not to be condescending, but also giving the beginner all the knowledge they might need to start the cocktail journey.

There are cocktail books with more recipes, but there are more than 800 in Drink, which is plenty enough for all but the geekiest of cocktail fiends - and it’s a book I would suggest they would still want on their shelves.

Drink takes a look at everything from ancient fermented liquids from all over the world and throughout different periods in history, giving a thorough background to the world of alcohol and mixing.

Colin and Kurt at Copper Oak NYC

Colin and Kurt at Copper Oak NYC

With cocktail and mocktails, there is something here for every palate, whether you have a sweet or sour tooth, love experimenting, sticking to the classics, or don’t even want alcohol, Drink will have a cocktail to suit you.

One of the strengths of this book is there are cocktails which can be easily made at home with minimal ingredients and little skill needed. Beyond this, there are cocktails which are designed to take no time at all, or are easy to mix in bulk for parties (or even single drinks), which are quick to make for a few guests.

There are too many examples to list, and I’m not going to impose my likes and favourites on you. Simply buy the book and try them for yourself. The cocktail journey is exciting and all the more fun if it’s your own.

 By Colin Hampden-White