Amathus Drinks Expands its Premium Drinks Retail Estate 

Amathus Bath

New Openings in Brighton and Bath

Amathus Drinks Plc, the family owned and operated expanding premium drinks wholesaler, has announced that it has acquired two new retail stores: on Bath’s Green Street and on Prince Albert Street, Brighton. The new stores officially started trading on the 8th November 2018 and join the group’s existing retail outlets in Shoreditch, Leadenhall Market and the flagship store in Soho.

Harry Georgiou, Managing Director, said, “We’ve always believed that our premium stores played a vital role in bringing our rarer and unusual wines and exclusive spirits to the increasingly knowledgeable consumer, as well as fellow enthusiasts and on trade clientele. Our stores play a significant role in showcasing our exclusive agency portfolio, support our suppliers in reaching wider markets and enable us to fulfil our mission to bring ‘Drinks To The World’.”

Phil Duffy, Head of Spirits comments ‘’Our stores are a brilliant asset in London and provide both consumers and on-trade establishments with excellent service and access to our unrivalled portfolio. Moving into markets outside London is at once a logical next step and hugely exciting, allowing us to bring our exclusive products to a wider market.‘’

Jeremy Lithgow MW, who joined Amathus Drinks in 2017 to strengthen its wholesale wines offer, added, “Our growing retail presence allows us to work with a broader and more varied range of wines than we would have previously considered for the wholesale side of the business, including small parcels of fine and rare releases. They also give us the ideal platform for our producers to open and present their wines to our clients.”

This is the first new venture for the company since it acquired Coventry & Bristol wholesaler, Bablake Wines in 2015. Georgiou explained, “This investment is part of our strategy to expand nationally. The 2015 deal gave our wholesale operation a footprint that stretches from the south coast all the way to the borders and beyond.”

About Amathus 

Established in 1978, The Amathus Drinks Group is a fast growing, family owned drinks importer, distributor and specialist retailer. Our direct to trade serviced distribution area covers most parts of England and Wales with distribution centres in London, Bristol and Coventry and retail/wholesale stores in central London, Bath, Brighton and further beyond.

In addition to supplying a comprehensive range of global brands, Amathus prides itself on its portfolio of exclusive agencies with provenance and distinction that are best in class, often unique and sourced from all corners of the world. Supported with our own modern delivery fleet and our resourceful business development specialists, as part of our two hundred strong team, our mission is to provide first class products and services to our customers.

Soho City Shoreditch Bath | Brighton |

Follow @AmathusDrinks | Like us on Facebook

The Amathus Festive Drinks Guide

celebrate-celebration-cheers-1268558

Tis the season for eggnog, cocktails and hot cocoa. With summer now a distant memory and December slowly setting in, we’re officially gearing up for all things winter and warming. Our afterwork and weekend tipple choice, changes from the obligatory Aperol Spritz and G&T, to winter warmers such as hot cider and mulled wine.

It’s time to get in the party spirit with festive fizz, classic cocktails and Christmas punch – bottoms up!

Brut Reserve in situation 1

On the top of everyone’s festive drinks menu and probably one of the first alcoholic drinks people consume on Christmas Day, is fizz. Whether your go-to is Champagne, Cava, Crémant or Prosecco, we’ve got the ultimate selection to suit all tastes. Our Champagne of choice has to be Duval-Leroy Brut Réserve NV; a Champagne of beautiful refinement and elegance, with flavours of dark chocolate, cinnamon and roasted yellow figs… sublime!

If you sway more towards Prosecco, then opt for 8Cento Prosecco Millesimato 2017. This is perhaps the best value vintage Prosecco around, displaying classic ripe melon, peach and pear aromas.

bottle-macro-shadow-121191

When it comes to Christmas dinner, what is the first thing that springs to mind? Turkey? Well of course… Christmas would not be Christmas without turkey. It’s been a traditional favourite in the UK and the US since as far back as the 16th century, although it was the Victorians who really cemented its place at the festive lunch table.

With turkey in mind, let’s have a look at what white and red wine we’d recommend to match. Turkey is not a powerful flavoured meat so you need to go for wines that will compliment this flavour and that won’t be too overpowering – either a full-bodied medium white wine or a medium-bodied red. Tannins are a no no with turkey. Abad San Salvador Bierzo Godello 2015 would be our choice of white and Pierre Maiziere Nuits Saint Georges 2014 for the red.

The mighty mains of Christmas doesn’t begin and end with turkey. Lamb is a definite contender, and is best served alongside a bottle of red. The Penley Estate Gryphon Bordeaux Blend 2016 would be the ideal match. White wine with lamb isn’t your usual combination but it doesn’t mean it’s a no go; try a bottle of Laurent Habrard Crozes-Hermitage Blanc 2016… delightful!

cocktail13

Sweet wine and Port have to make an appearance around the Christmas table at some point, especially Port. Port and Christmas is one of the greatest things and Cálem 10 Years Old Tawny definitely deserves a seat at the table. Winner of this year’s IWC best in class trophy, Cálem 10 Years Old Tawny is a wine of supreme sophistication, laden with flavours of dried red fruits and gentle spice.

Château Haut-Mayne Sauternes 2015 is the classic sweet wine for the festive season. Made from 100% botryised Sémillon, this has all the typical ripe pineapple, mango and honeyed vanilla notes you would expect from the home of the world’s greatest dessert wines.

Norfol Nog

If you’re not a huge fan of sweet wine and Port, then you should try The Norfolk Nog – a unique blend of the finest English Whisky Co. Single Malt Whisky and cream, creating a luxurious liqueur full of flavour and perfect served over ice. Or how about The Norfolk PX? The best way to describe this is liquid Christmas pudding in a bottle… enough said!

PakhuisZwijger-bier

Beer can’t go unmentioned, especially at this time of the year. The king of all seasonal beers is the winter beer; brewed stronger, richer and more full bodied – bringing with it a far more diverse selection of offerings than any other seasonal beer. It’s a beer lovers dream.

Septem 8th Day India Pale Ale is top on our list – a fresh, unpasteurized beer, characterised by its impressive aromas of tangerine, citrus and lychee. Closely followed by Coedo Beniaka, an imperial amber brewed from roasted Kintoki sweet potatoes, and Hite Ice Point. In South Korea, where Hite originates, it is traditionally served as a J-Beer (Somaek), which is soju mixed with beer. The most popular ratio is 30% Jinro Soju to 70% Hite (maybe save this one until after Christmas dinner!).

alcoholic-beverages-bar-beverage-613037

Now for the cocktails…

You can sip a Martini any day of the week, but there is something particularly pleasurable about a cocktail designed for a particular time of year. This could simply mean updating your favourite cocktail recipes, by switching your choice of spirit or by adding in flavours of Christmas – such as allspice, cinnamon and clove. With this in mind, we’ve compiled a selection of cocktail recipes designed to beat those winter blues…

44146151_2065249300164634_8300376997939380224_n

Agric’Old Fashioned
60ml Rhum J.M V.O
15ml Shrubb J.M
3 dashes of Angostura Bitters

Stir and garnish with orange zest… simples!

Mocha Manhattan

Mocha Manhattan
50ml Whiskey Thief
25ml Contratto Americano Rosso
2 dashes of Bonpland Chocolate & Mace Flower Bitters

Stir and strain into a chilled coupette glass.

Mulled Gin n Juice

Mulled Gin n Juice
1 x bottle of Bobby’s Dry Gin
1 x litre Cloudy apple juice
200g Demerara sugar
6 x Cinnamon sticks
10 x Cloves
2 x Oranges
1 x Lemon
4 x Star anise
Good pinch of nutmeg

Cut the citrus into wheels or chunks, depending on preference. Heat up all the ingredients in a pan or tea urn, stir to dissolve the sugar, and then leave to infuse for 10-15 minutes. Serve in punch glasses with a piece of orange and a grating of nutmeg to garnish.

Note: if the mix is to be kept warm for an extended time, the spices should be removed once you are happy with the flavour, otherwise it will become astringent.

jump sturdy

Jump Sturdy
45ml L.N.Mattei Cap Corse Rouge
45ml François Voyer Cognac Terres de Grande Champagne
5ml Cartron Cacao Blanc
A dash of Absinthe

Stir and strain into a chilled coupette and garnish with an orange twist.

Pisco Punch

Pisco Punch
10 x Dried cloves
300ml Pisco 1615 Italia 
150ml Freshly squeezed pineapple juice
75ml Freshly squeezed orange juice
75ml Freshly squeezed lemon juice
75ml Sugar syrup
75ml Nicolo & Paradis Brut NV 

Muddle the cloves in the base of a shaker. Add the next 5 ingredients, shake with ice and strain into a jug. Finally, serve in a coupe glass and top with Champagne. Garnish with a pineapple wedge.

Bon appétit!

Soho City Shoreditch Bath | Brighton |

Follow @AmathusDrinks | Like us on Facebook

The Rise (and Comeback) of Vermouth

chambery-dolin-inventeur-du-vermout-de-chambery-vermout-le-plus-apprecie

If you were asked to identify the key turning points for cocktails at the moment, what are you going to say? Gin, small batch whisky? What about vermouth?

Back in the eighties, every household had a bottle of vermouth stashed away in the drinks cabinet. But vermouth quickly fell out of fashion and was only ever used as an ingredient in the odd cocktail or two. Now it’s making a comeback, quickly becoming one of the most ‘on trend’ things you can drink.


vermouth-bianco-375ml-contratto-2

Vermouth is a bartenders dream; finely crafted, layers of flavour, centuries of tradition and perfection, unique production methodology and secret formulas; so it’s hardly surprising that nowadays it’s one of the key ingredients in the ever-growing cocktail culture.

We take so much care to extract the finest nuances of flavour for our cocktails, experimenting with scientific and creative details, yet the element that will modify our drinks more radically than any other is in danger of being an afterthought, or at least a poorly informed choice of the usual suspects. But that is changing; some of us have taking to modifying our modifiers or even producing our own.

Before taking such steps it seems sensible to explore the rich tapestry of available products more fully. There is a panoply of houses, maisons and bodegas, producing wholly unique labours of love, of all house styles. New players are entering the market – seeing the inevitability of demand – old recipes are being unearthed and the global marketplace is bringing ancient producers to new markets.

Dry vermouth - ice and lemon

The rise of the aromatic cocktail is only beginning and the consumption of vermouth is set to change as well. The Negroni twist is the mark of every bartender’s creativity and countless cocktail competitions. The Americano and long, vermouth-based coolers, particularly the V&T, are appearing on more and more cocktail lists as our palates, lifestyle (often opting for a lower alcohol option in pursuit of a healthier lifestyle) and our fashion-sense, seeks even more authenticity and sophistication.

We strive to keep ahead of this revolutionising trend with our ever expanding portfolio of vermouths. Ranging from the classic dry vermouths such as Dolin Vermouth de Chambéry to the not so classics, made form all sorts of weird and wonderful botanicals, including Ferdinand’s Saar Dry Riesling Vermouth, infused with vintage Grand Cru Riesling and Italian vermouth brand Contratto.

For something a little more off the radar try L.N Mattei Cap Corse from Corsica. Rather than the usual wormwood, which is typically used to make vermouth, this apéritif wine is aromatised with quinquina (a bush tree from central America producing quinine); making it the ideal aromatic filler for your favourite cocktails.

So depending on what you’re after, we’ve got an extremely versatile range that taste just as good on their own, served over ice as they do mixed in cocktails.


03072015-DSC_2751

Contratto, Italy
‘Viliant vermouths steeped in history from Piedmont’

Contratto Vermouth Bianco 

An aromatic blend of herbs and spices gently infused with white wine and Italian brandy.

Contratto Vermouth Rosso

A well-balanced boutique apéritif, made from a concoction of white wine fortified with Italian brandy with 30 delicately infused with herbs and spices.

Contratto Americano Rosso

The americano draws from much the same pool of botanicals and serves a similar function to each of the Contratto Vermouths.


americano-_183

Otto’s, Greece
Created by the founders of the world class Athens bar The Clumsies

Otto’s Athens Vermouth 

Slightly bitter with fresh rose petal, citric and vanilla tones.


998671_542500222476018_1949355031_n

Dolin, France
‘The last remaining producer of Vermouth de Chambéry and the only vermouth AOC in the world’ 

Dolin Vermouth de Chambéry Blanc 

Rich orange citrus aromas, with a luscious, toffee character.

Dolin Vermouth de Chambéry Dry 

A gentle sweetness, with tropical, almost lychee flavours, followed by a bitter clove finish.

Dolin Vermouth de Chambéry Rouge 

An abundance of herbs and spices of almond, citrus, pear and violet.


Ferdinands_Saar_Dry_Vermouth_bottle

Ferdinand’s, Germany
‘The first Riesling vermouth in the world’ 

Ferdinand’s Saar Dry Riesling Vermouth 

The very first dry Riesling vermouth from the Saar region; a floral yet spicy character, promising supreme drinking pleasure.

Ferdinand’s Saar White Riesling Vermouth (Barrel Aged)

Made from vintage Grand Cru Riesling, infused with 12 carefully selected botanicals.


19145705_1328928090553620_6572945848315016511_n

L.N Mattei Cap Corse, Corsica
‘It is a quinquina, not a vermouth’

L.N Mattei Cap Corse Grande Réserve Blanc

Fresh citrus and floral notes, with a smooth and delicate profile at first sip.

L.N Mattei Cap Corse Réserve Rouge 

Rich citrus and floral flavours, with a powerful dry quinquina bitterness on the palate.

 

Knightsbridge Soho City Shoreditch |

Follow @AmathusDrinks | Like us on Facebook

Amathus Marks 40th Anniversary with Special Releases

IMG_9304

To help celebrate Amathus’ 40th birthday, we’ve teamed up with some of our long-standing brand agency partners to create some exceptional and unique bottlings of iconic spirits. Personally selected by Harry Georgiou, Managing Director and Owner of Amathus, with Yves Calabre of our expert spirits category team, in collaboration with master distillers and blenders, these are extremely rare examples of some of the best spirits on the planet.

Harry explains: “We are extremely proud of our history, and this unique selection of fine and rare spirits is the perfect way to celebrate 40 years at the forefront of the UK drinks trade. These extraordinary brandies, whiskies and rum expressions are the result of a collaboration with some of the finest spirits producers in the world and stand as a testament both to the skill and passion of these producers, and to our ongoing commitment to bringing the finest examples of drinks to the world.”


The Sensational Six 

all together (4)

François Voyer Vieux Cognac Grande Champagne

 43% ABV · 70cl · £157.35 · Allocation: 457 bottles

François Voyer occupies 29ha in the heart of the prestigious cru of Grande Champagne on some of the highest quality soils – the area known as the ‘golden triangle’. From this tiny estate Maître de Chai Pierre Vaudon produces cognacs of breath-taking elegance and complexity. This one-off bottling is based on a single vintage from the 1970s, and is testament to what this unique region is capable of. An intense, delicate cognac with a complex rancio and a finish that lasts a month or more. Quite simply perfect.

all together

Château de Laubade Bas Armagnac 40 Years Old 

40% ABV · 70cl · £105.50 · Allocation: 300 bottles

The Château de Laubade is located in the Bas Armagnac region and has been in the stewardship of the Lesgourgues family since 1974. This 40-year is a classic old armagnac and a masterclass in ageing the Baco grape. The high proportion of Baco (over 50%) gives a velvety richness with plum, dried fruit and tobacco notes; the Ugni Blanc and Colombard making up the blend provide the elegance and freshness to back this up. Stunning with a cigar. And without a cigar.

all together (3)

Château du Breuil 20 Years Old, Fut No. 63

47.7% ABV · 70cl · £93.55 · Allocation: 300 bottles

Château du Breuil has 42ha of orchards in the Pays d’Auge region, where the climatic conditions are perfect for growing apples for brandy. Distillation over a naked flame and twenty years in wood have resulted in this single cask of perfectly aged Calvados, which has been bottled at full strength – a rarity in the region. It combines a beautiful baked apple crumble aroma with a fresh green apple flavour mingled with soft spice; it really opens up in the glass after 15 minutes or so, if you can manage to wait that long.

 

all together (6)

Rhum J.M Single Barrel Tres Vieux Rhum Agricole 

44.3% ABV · 50cl · £75.00 · Allocation: 386 bottles

From the volcanic soils of the Northern tip of Martinique, the much-loved JM estate specialises in fine old and vintage rhum agricoles. The distillery gets its water from a volcanic spring within the grounds and – incredibly – the cane is pressed within one hour of harvest, preserving all its freshness. This is a single cask of 11-year-old rhum with an incredible complexity: tropical fruit, spices and nuts with a beautiful toastiness. Impossible to drink without smiling, even in the absence of the Martinique sun.

all together (2)

The English Whisky Company B1-423

57.1% ABV · 70cl · £85.05 · Allocation: 211 bottles

The English Whisky Company was established in 2006, becoming England’s first whisky distillery in over a century. Based in Norfolk, with plentiful supplies of barley and water, they have now been producing award-winning whiskies for over a decade. This is an exceptionally smokey whisky (peated to 62ppm) aged in a single bourbon cask and bottled at the high strength of 57.1%. This combination delivers huge amounts of smoke on the nose and the palate, backed up with the fruity esters and balance that characterise David Fitt’s cracking whiskies.

all together (5)

Michel Couvreur 16 Years Old PX Cask 

51% ABV · 50cl · £199.75 · Allocation: 100 bottles

Michel Couvreur source malt whiskies from Scotland and mature them in their caves in Burgundy, moving between different cellars to perfect the ageing process. This is a single cask single malt, distilled in 2002 and matured in a sweet Pedro Ximenez cask for 16 years, in both dry and humid cellars, and at only 100 bottles is one of the rarest whiskies they’ve ever produced. It is a beautiful deep red colour, with rich sherry notes and a round fruitiness that holds its alcohol level well. Like an exceptionally classy hug.

 

Knightsbridge Soho City Shoreditch |

Follow @AmathusDrinks | Like us on Facebook

Aquavit – Spirit of the Summer

IMG_9143

It turns out we’re in the middle of a gin boom. Still. For those of us who were bartending back when Mojitos were the latest thing and Aperol hadn’t yet been Spritzed, there’s a certain feeling of ‘job done’: having spent years extolling the virtues of gin to a largely uninterested vodka-swilling crowd, we can now hardly keep up with the barrage of new gins, gin newspaper features and gin festivals.

12615394_10153982021684009_4685198135349112508_o

In the on-trade this is old news, of course. Gin started outselling vodka in some of the more cocktail-oriented venues several years ago, although it’s probably fair to say that none of us could have predicted the subsequent deluge. On the other hand, as a friend pointed out, looking at the bigger picture it’s simply back to business as usual: the British drank an awful lot of gin from the 1690s right through to the 1960s, when the rise of vodka proved something of a distraction. From this angle, we’ve merely taken a 50-year break from gin and will now have another 300 or so of riots, acts, bathtubs, martinis, sophistication and everything else associated with our national nip.

12240339_10153835500669009_5025242489606568782_o

So, gin is unquestionably ‘now’. The question, as ever, is: what’s next? Aquavit, close cousin of gin, is starting to make waves outside of its traditional Scandinavian situation and is increasingly finding its way onto bars and cocktail lists. In many ways, this is a natural progression: gin is essentially alcohol flavoured with juniper plus other stuff, aquavit is alcohol flavoured with caraway and/or dill and other stuff. The difference in their flavour profiles is largely based on the choice of botanicals. As gins have pushed and challenged the limits of the category, with juniper firmly taking a back seat in many modern styles and brands have sought to differentiate themselves with different botanicals (there’s even one made using Harley Davidson motorbike parts as a ‘botanical’. Seriously, look it up.), the distance to aquavit has steadily decreased, making aquavit a logical next step for the inquisitive gin enthusiast.

OP Anderson

Aquavit is remarkably easy to make drinks with; it happily replaces gin in many cocktails – O.P Anderson makes a great Negroni, Aalborg Dild & Tonic is a wonderful apéritif. For those looking for a wider palate of flavours to mix with, aquvait provides an exciting base, which is how bars at the vanguard are giving their drinks lists, a new twist. Check out our upcoming ‘Aquavit Cocktail of the Month’ blog for more details and inspiration. Aquavit has long been the spirit of the summer in Scandinavia, where it lubricates many a naked Midsummer party*; this summer we’re seeing the spirit reach a wider public. Possibly with less nudity.

*this may not actually be true.

By Phil Duffy (Amathus Head of Spirits) 

Knightsbridge Soho City Shoreditch |

Follow @AmathusDrinks | Like us on Facebook

The Birth of a New Tequila – Calle 23 Criollo

In the old-town of Guadalajara is a square called Nueve Esquinas – ‘Nine Corners’ – that encapsulates everything Sophie Decobecq loves about Mexico. It has a bustling yet tranquil atmosphere, punctuated by the sounds of children playing around the fountain and thick with the hum of live music and mariachis overflowing from the birrierías, the restaurants that serve the traditional goat stew – birria – that is a regional speciality of Jalisco. The colours are bright and vibrant, and a calm exhilaration permeates the whole scene, enticing and inviting. It is a wonderful place.

Calle 23 sign

Halfway up the wall of one of the birrierías is a defunct old street sign, identifying a road that no longer exists. It is above eye level and blends in subtly with the wall behind it, so is easy to miss, but its dated appearance combined with the fact that it is there at all gives it a shabby charm: there’s something enjoyably quaint about signage that has outstayed its relevance or utility. This is the sign that Sophie spotted during a laid-back lunch with some close friends, when every part of her tequila was finished, other than the name. As a snapshot of a moment and of the Mexico that Sophie loves it was perfect, and so the obsolete sign for ‘23rd Street’ found new life as the name of Sophie’s tequila: Calle 23.

Sophie Decobecq Calle 23 Tequila 244 - Simon Difford

Sophie has been in Mexico for over 17 years and now lives a short walk away from the square and the sign, in a beautiful house that we visited to see her two new arrivals. As we settle into the most comfortable tasting I’ve ever been to (a wicker chair with a cushion, under an open sky, in the gentle warmth of a Mexican ‘winter’ – honestly, nothing short of a comparative Piña Colada tasting in a hammock is going to beat it) Sophie’s young son, Abel, comes to see his mum and play around us.

The Creation of Calle 23

C23-Trío70cl bot antigua

We begin with a tasting of the Calle 23 range – blanco, reposado & añejo – which until recently was the whole family. I’ve known and worked with Calle since the start and it’s still always a pleasure to hear Sophie talk about it. Firstly, it’s a good story: a French biological chemist specialising in fermentation gets a posting to Mexico, falls in love with the country and with tequila, decides to make her own for personal use and ultimately ends up exporting it to the whole world. Beyond that is a treasure trove of geeky delight, as you would expect when someone with Sophie’s background develops a passion for something.

C23. Campo agave #5

Right from the conception of her tequila, Sophie brought an expertise to her new passion that led her into the agave fields with a stack of petri dishes and a needle. Sterilising the needle – primitively but effectively – with a cigarette lighter she gently scraped different parts of the agaves to collect wild yeasts native to the fields, which she then incubated in her petri dishes. Once these cultures had developed she began separating the yeasts: taking sections of each petri dish, transferring it to a new one and incubating again, then repeating the process, progressively having fewer strains until each yeast was isolated in its own dish. Having decided on highland agaves as being perfect for the tequila she envisioned, she then set to work fermenting batches of cooked agave with different yeasts and combinations of yeasts.

This gave her a number of suitable bases to distil and she began making different tequilas with them, blind-tasting the results until finally she arrived at the blanco she wanted, bursting with the distinctive flavour and aroma of cooked agave. At the same time, she tested and blind-tasted between autoclave– and horno-cooked distillates, settling on the former (this is one of the things I love about Sophie’s methods: she, like many of us, would have preferred a horno for the appearance and the romance, but through strict blind-tasting she discovered that the result she wanted was best achieved through autoclave). The blanco was then put into old ex-bourbon casks to create the reposado. Sophie always uses old casks as the character she looks for in all her tequilas is that of agave, of the aroma she fell in love with on her first visit to a tequila distillery. After about eight months – and tasting every step of the way – the reposado was ready. There was, however, a complication. During this time Sophie had carried on experimenting and had found a different set of yeasts that made a blanco that she preferred, meaning she had two blanco tequilas.

Calle 23 - Cocktail Cullinan - Le 1905 - Paris

A further complication arose after this second blanco was aged: when it was ready she found she preferred her initial reposado. Leaving both versions in the casks for around 16 months to create two añejos, her preference was different again. The result of this is that Sophie effectively makes two blanco tequilas, differentiated by the yeast strains they are fermented with. One of these is released as the blanco, and also put into cask to become the añejo; the other is all put into casks and becomes the reposado. As far as I’m aware this is unique in the whole of tequila. This relentlessly scientific approach to taste may also be the secret to the consistency of Calle 23. Tequila as a category can be hugely variable, with even great brands tasting different from year to year (something that Ocho does a brilliant job of celebrating with their terroir-focussed releases). Calle is still the liquid I remember first tasting a decade ago and is still delicious.

A New Arrival

For 15 years the blanco, reposado and añejo have been the whole Calle 23 family, but over time Sophie has kept a notebook of various ideas and experiments she would like to do. From her first visits to the agave fields of Los Altos – the highlands of Jalisco – she had noticed plants known as criollos. These are blue agave, but of a type that remains at a smaller size even when fully mature; they are occasionally in whole fields, occasionally just in part of a field, and are usually just combined with the rest of the crop. Watching them being harvested she discovered they have a distinctive aroma and are sticky to the touch, indicating high sugar content. Immediately the idea of a tequila made exclusively from criollos came to mind, which she wrote down in her notebook.

20160209_090210_HDR.jpg

This was all but forgotten until a couple of years ago when she became pregnant with her son. Wanting to mark the occasion with a special tequila to celebrate her new arrival she began rifling through her notebook where – amongst ideas for yeasts, cooking methods and ageing – she remembered the blue agave criollos and the idea of a tequila made only using these special plants. There was some difficulty in convincing her distillery that this was a good thing to do – or even whether it would be any different – so, characteristically, Sophie did a blind-tasting of blue agave alongside criollo blue agave. That, ultimately, was enough to persuade the doubters and so Calle 23 Criollo was born: a single batch, utterly unique, one-off tequila.

DSC_0602

This being a unique release, Sophie wanted to make every part special. The bottle is hand-blown, and the liquid is bottled at a higher strength than usual. Sophie’s preferred strength – decided by blind-tasting, of course – was 49%, but as the water was added little by little during the dilution phase the tequila tasted so good at 49.3% that she stopped there. Serendipity also played a large part in the beautiful label. At a tasting that overran (by a few hours) Sophie met the brother of an artist, Rose Guerrero, another French lady with a passion for Mexico. Rose’s artwork is rich in Mexican symbols and imagery and was exactly what Sophie was looking for, so she asked Rose to create the hand-drawn design. The blue agave and the smaller criollo are on one side; a snake – an important symbol in Mexican culture – carries a penca stolen from the latter. A rose – the artist’s name – nestles alongside another important Mexican symbol, the skull. On the other side the swallow, symbolising new arrivals, carries an image of Mayahuel (the goddess of agave) on her wings and wears a necklace announcing the two arrivals: an agave for Tequila Calle 23 Criollo and the letter ‘A’, for Abel: Sophie’s son. Framed by all these images is an old street sign, with a shabby charm, which will be familiar to anyone who has looked up at the wall of the Birriería las 9 Esquinas in the old town of Guadalajara.

By Phil Duffy (Amathus Head of Spirits) 

 

Knightsbridge Soho City Shoreditch |

Follow @AmathusDrinks | Like us on Facebook

A superb family owned and sustainably managed Champagne house

Brut Reserve in situation 1

Amathus Drinks is delighted to announce the partnership with Champagne Duval-Leroy. From April 2nd Amathus will be the exclusive UK distributor for this prestigious house. Family-owned since 1859, today Duval-Leroy is under the stewardship of Carol Duval-Leroy, ably supported by her three sons Julien, Charles and Louis. Located in Vertus in the Côte des Blancs, the house works with an unusually high proportion of their own 1er and Grand Cru vineyards, many of which are worked organically. Chardonnay is the dominant grape throughout the range and top quality rosé is also made alongside a selection of special cuvées from historic varieties. A combination of stainless steel, oak barrels and old reserve wines are used to create wines of great precision and complexity.

Duval-Leroy is a leader in promoting sustainability in both winery and vineyard, not only listing a fully organic wine but also certified completely vegan across the range. Widely carried by Michelin-starred restaurants, Relais et Châteaux and prestigious hotels across the globe, in addition Duval-Leroy has been awarded Best Champagne in the World by CSWC (Champagne and Sparkling Wine World Championships) for three consecutive years, confirming their reputation as a producer of the highest quality.

Jeremy Lithgow MW, Amathus Drinks’ Head of Wine said “We are thrilled to have the opportunity to work with such a prestigious house. The quality across the range is outstanding and we’re excited to be working with another family owned company which shares our desire for quality and ambitions for growth in the UK market.”

Knightsbridge Soho City Shoreditch |

Follow @AmathusDrinks | Like us on Facebook

 

Your Easter Drinks Menu Awaits…

happy_easter_newsletter2 (003)

From England to Germany to America, everyone is drinking gin and tonic. When served correctly, gin and tonic sounds, looks, smells and tastes incredible. With the current gin craze taking over the world, you can forget about the simple gin and tonic with a splash of tonic and a slice of lime; as we see more of our favourite mixologists creating mad-hatter libations with liquid smoke and all sorts of weird and wonderful garnishes.

If you’re bored of the same old gin and tonic, we’ve come up with a few ways to spruce up this classic mixed drink, using fresh ingredients and substituting your choice of gin for a different type of spirit: turning it from your average tipple to a masterpiece in mere moments. With Easter weekend just around corner, what better excuse to try these concoctions out.

Beyond the G&T

contratto (002)

Contratto Vermouth Bianco & Tonic

Long tarred by the brush of the 1970s naffness, vermouth is now being recognised for the fine apéritif it is. Top 60ml of Contratto Vermouth Bianco with tonic and garnish with lemon peel.

calem (002)

Cálem White & Dry & Tonic

Set to be the new drink of 2018, white port ticks the lower-alcohol trend box and is a wonderful alternative to gin. Serve over ice, with tonic, a slice of lemon, lemongrass and cucumber to garnish.

shrubb (002)

Clément Créole Shrubb & Tonic

Unlike the vinegar and fruit macerations that share the same name, Clément Créole Shrubb from Martinique is a spiced orange liqueur; perfect with tonic, a slice of orange and a dash of grapefruit bitters (optional).

dolin (002)

Dolin Chambéryzette & Tonic

Dolin Chambéryzette is a blend of Vermouth de Chambéry and strawberry liqueur; ideal for the one with a slightly sweeter tooth. And yes you’ve guessed it… best served with tonic and strawberries and mint as your choice of garnish.

Four Bottles for Easter

bernard

Bernard-Massard Brut Cuvée de L’Écusson NV

To kick off any gathering sparkling wine is essential. Bernard-Massard Brut Cuvée de L’Écusson NV ticks all the boxes with its elegant buttery nose and expressive aromas of fruit and citrus.

monte pio (002)

Monte Pio Albariño 2016

Albariño is definitely one of Spain’s best kept secrets. This crisp, dry, aromatic Albariño by Monte Pio makes the ideal companion to your Easter fish course.

ochoa (002)

Ochoa Gran Reserva 2009

The mighty red; the centrepiece of every Easter table. Opt for the Ochoa Gran Reserva 2009, a classic style of wine with glorious notes of black fruits.

nel

Nelstrop’s Pedro Ximenez

The ultimate after dinner delight, Nelstrop’s Pedro Ximenez; vintage Sherry and single malt whisky combined and aged for 2 years in oak… enough said!

Wishing you all a very happy Easter…

Knightsbridge Soho City Shoreditch |

Follow @AmathusDrinks | Like us on Facebook

A Tale of Two Shrubbs

Unlike the vinegar and fruit macerations that share the name, shrubb in Martinique is a spiced orange liqueur. Both Clément and Rhum J.M now have a shrubb, which share similarities but can be used in quite different ways.

Clement

The base is a blend of white and aged rhum (J.M contains more aged, Clément more white) which is then combined with a blend of spices: nutmeg, cloves, orange zest, cinnamon and a little vanilla. The spices are individually macerated in white rhum to extract the flavour, and the resultant essences are blended into the base in different ratios – the exact difference is a secret, but in terms of flavour Clément tends to be a clearer orange, whereas J.M has more rounded spiciness. Cane sugar and bitters are the final additions, again in different amounts. Shrubb is the Christmas Punch of Martinique!

Shrubb JM

When it comes to ways in which to drink them, less is more (in terms of ingredients): both taste fantastic served chilled on their own as an aperitif or after dinner drink. Clément Créole Shrubb is perfect with tonic and a dash of grapefruit bitters, for a great long drink in summertime (or while hoping for the summer to come).

Shrubb & Tonic 2

J.M lends itself perfectly to a Rhum Old Fashioned, with 60ml J.M V.S.O.P and 15ml Shrubb J.M stirred down for a late-night drink at any time of year.

Old Fashioned

Shrubb is an extremely versatile liqueur, which means it works exceptionally well with an array of other spirits. Try it in a Reverse Margarita with 35ml shrubb and 25ml tequila (opt for a blanco tequila with Clément, and a reposado with J.M) and lime juice to taste.

Knightsbridge Soho City Shoreditch |

Follow @AmathusDrinks | Like us on Facebook

Two Men & Plenty of Mezcal

DSC_8557

“I think we may have to stop for a minute”. We’d been on the road from Oaxaca City for a little over an hour and a half, along winding, bumpy roads at an altitude notably higher than our natural habitat. It would be fair to say that we were beginning to appreciate the remoteness of our destination, the Sola de Vega region of Oaxaca and the family ranch of the brothers behind Los Siete Misterios, Julio and Eduardo Mestre. Eduardo kindly pulled over at the next suitable spot – a good twenty minutes later – and we got out to stretch our legs and have a few well-deserved deep breaths. Julio went on a mercy mission for some water, crisps and marshmallows, and I noticed a friendly stray dog. I stroked it, thinking about what a lovely man I am, when Eduardo opened the boot of the car, pulled out some dog food and popped a nice portion on the floor for our new friend. The brothers, it transpires, are dog lovers and always keep a pack handy in case they come across a stray. I need to up my game.

Once we’d regained our composure we piled back into the car for the final leg of the journey, gratefully pulling into the ranch a little over an hour later to receive an enthusiastic welcome from the 10 dogs – all from the same litter – who are also a part of the family. The brothers’ mother, Angela, and her husband Eduardo have lived here for two years now and have converted a former cattle ranch into a Palenque, an agave field and a nursery.

IMG_2773

There are around 200 known species of agave, most of which grow in Mexico, and roughly 45 of these are used in some form of distillation (estimates vary, but over 30 is certainly a safe bet). The Sola de Vega region is home to about 18 of these, cultivated and growing wild. Unlike in tequila production, where the blue agave is cultivated by means of hijuelos, and hence clones of the same plant, at the nursery the emphasis is on letting the quiote sprout from the agaves and gathering the seeds, which are then planted and nurtured. Some species of agave, particularly the ‘wild’ varieties (notably the legendary Tobala), are thought to not shoot hijuelos and can only be propagated in this way. In terms of sustainability this is becoming more essential: during our trip we heard several reports of hillsides being stripped of immature wild agave. Suspicion falls on the agave syrup industry – which requires a lower level of brix than mezcal – but in truth no-one is sure.

We took a stroll through the nursery, after applying a healthy layer of suncream, and cooed over the baby Tobala we found there. Antonio, the master palenquero, joined us as we continued into the field to see an impressive range of agave growing side by side: jabali, barril, mexicano, sierra negra, arroqueno, espadin, tobala and more, with a staggering range of size and appearance that contrasted sharply with the regimented lines of blue agave we’d seen in Jalisco. Somewhat overexcited I quickly became a self-declared expert in agave identification: sierra negra has black tipped teeth on the penca, hence its name (‘black saw’); tobala looks ‘like an angry cabbage’ (according to my personal botanical notes); barril has a small ‘trunk’ beneath the plant and looks a bit like a small yucca palm (in Sola de Vega barril tends to be used to refer to agave from the karwinski family so some of these were madrecuixe, tobasiche and others).

DSC_8593

At the ranch Antonio was preparing to cook a batch of barril agave, the thin, woody piñas arranged in a neat pile next to the oven, which holds three tons of agave per cook: enough for just 150 litres of the finished mezcal. After cooking the agave are smashed up in a hollowed-out log (a canoe, basically) with a large homemade mallet, which is great fun to wield. Antonio’s mezcal is distilled in traditional small clay pots (as are all the Siete Misterios Mezcals, with the exception of Doba-Yej) and he took a break from stacking the stones in the oven to taste some with us, while Eduardo talked us through the distillation.

IMG_2820

After this comprehensive tour everyone sat for a wonderful lunch of Angela’s Oaxacan food and enjoyed the warm Mexican hospitality, and we tasted the range. Julio and Eduardo work with a number of palenques in the Sola de Vega region, sourcing some of the finest traditional single agave varietal mezcals. The brothers first discovered mezcal when taking road trips from Mexico City: they would drive to the coast and pick up mezcal from the villages on their way. This was always popular with their friends, and after requests for more they began to take plastic jerry cans back to Mexico City; the best of these mezcals eventually became the Siete Misterios range. Over lunch we started with the ultra-rare, earthy mexicano, moved onto the fruitier coyote, the herbaceous arroqueno, and then the buttery barril: all with some of the nicest home-cooked food I’ve ever enjoyed. Oh, and some dried grasshoppers.

DSC_8682

After a long afternoon in this idyllic setting we left much later than we planned, meaning that the return journey was in darkness. This didn’t improve it much, but a bellyful of great food and mezcal and a soulful of hospitality certainly helped. Also, Eduardo drives fast. We finished with a couple of beers and mezcals in one of Oaxaca City’s nice bars and headed to bed.


 

Day 2 started with a quick quesadilla and hot chocolate in a local café before Misty and Gabe from Del Maguey picked us up and drove us to Teotitlan del Valle, where the bottling is done and some very special casks are resting. Del Maguey was my first real encounter with mezcal – the best part of a decade ago – so I spent the whole day in a perpetual near-dream state, starting as we tasted the now immense range with Misty – after she’d personalised our copitas for us. Sticking to the Del Maguey rule, of course: sip, don’t shoot.

77628_4830652169912_2013976975_cymk_resized

After a quick burrito stop (yep, a burrito in Mexico. I think Jon is still in shock.) we drove to the first of the two palenques of the day, in San Baltazar Chichicapam. When Ron Cooper started Del Maguey way back in 1995 Chichicapa was one of the first two he brought to the world, accompanied by San Luis del Rio. Correspondingly, this was also the first real mezcal I ever had the pleasure of tasting, and I still remember the feeling of a whole new world opening up as my taste buds tried and failed to find a suitable reference in the memory bank of spirit flavours. It would be fair to say I was excited to be here, and not a little overwhelmed. This was only compounded when Faustino joined us: it is always a privilege to drink with a producer, and to sit and enjoy a mezcal (okay, many mezcals) with him and his son Max was something of a dream realised for me.

Next stop was Santa Catarina Minas, where Minero is produced. If Faustino’s Chichicapa first drew me into mezcal, it was the clay pots of Minero which ensured I was hooked. Like the majority of the Siete Misterios range, Del Maguey Minero is made in the artisanal fashion, meaning that along with the use of clay stills the agave is smashed by hand, or rather with big bats: molinas (stone wheel mills) powered by horses or donkeys are the alternative (mezcal is ‘craft’ and ‘small batch’ long before those terms were invented, let alone desirable). We gave this a good go. I must confess I’ve wanted to try my hand at agave smashing ever since I heard about it, and I would have patted myself on the back were it not for the fact that both my hands were blistered to the point of bleeding after about 20 minutes. A batch takes around five hours, admittedly by someone with better technique than me.

IMG_3090

Luis Carlos and his wife Alejandrina sat and drank mezcal with us as we caught our breath (this took some time), and admired the view of the sunset, and attempted to make friends with the goats. Well, I did at least. We enjoyed the mezcal, the company and the view for some time before reluctantly having to take our leave.

We returned to Oaxaca City to meet with Michael, Steve and Jaime from Del Maguey for the evening; dinner followed by a visit to In Situ, a local mezcaleria, for some of the rarer agave and dasyrylion (sotol) distillates before retiring happily to our flat for a couple of rounds of backgammon. Mezcal, for all its virtues, doesn’t improve my technique.

IMG_3051


 

Day 3, our final full day, we met Jaime Munoz of Los Danzantes and Alipús. Jaime – who is incidentally one of the nicest characters in mezcal – drove us to their under-construction new distillery. For anyone with a geek-leaning temperament this was paradise. Tradition combined with science and sustainability, from the heat-conserving arrangement of the stills, to the use of different fuels, to the plans for a solar powered tahona, to the agave ‘museum’ and nursery in the grounds. Jon and I spent at least half an hour taking photos of the labelled agaves outside. Running a little late thanks to this over-enthusiastic agave snapping we moved to the original distillery that Jaime set up in the ‘90s. Los Danzantes was started by Jaime and his twin brother, Gustavo, as a restaurant in Mexico City with a focus on top-end Mexican food (at a time when ‘top-end’ and ‘Mexican food’ were unusual bedfellows); its success led to the second restaurant in Oaxaca City. The emphasis on cuisine led the brothers to bottle their own tequila early on, and it didn’t take long for them to move to mezcal, which continues to be Jaime’s passion.

Brighton Map

If the new distillery is a geek’s paradise, the original is a salve to those of us who like organisation (if you’ve ever arranged your spirits in the same order as the stock take sheet, or changed the bar setup to make people move more efficiently, then this is the distillery for you). The set up allows the agave to arrive at one end, where they are put into the traditional oven. The oven is on a raised level a little higher than the fermentation vats, which are on wheels for added ease. The stills are then on a slightly lower level. The whole production is in a line, working with gravity, and the cellar (more of a chai, in that it’s above ground) is at the end; the finished product leaves the distillery at the opposite end to which the agave arrives. There’s a deep beauty to this kind of organisation and whatever’s the opposite of your skin crawling, this does it to me.

IMG_3214

We tasted the Los Danzantes range with Jaime, and spent a long while talking in the cellar/chai, (which even shares characteristics with the equivalents in Cognac, such as gravel on the floor to regulate the humidity), before getting back in the car to head to San Baltazar to meet one of the Alipús producers.

LD 2

The Alipús project was started by Jaime to support the indigenous growers and distillers of the region. As with Del Maguey and Los Siete Misterios he works with a number of producers, with the mezcals bottled under the Alipús label. At San Baltazar we again encountered the mix of tradition and sustainability at the heart of Los Danzantes and Alipús: Don Cirilo and his family are close to completing the construction of their new distillery and home, built with the proceeds they have made from Alipús and using technical advice from Los Danzantes. Modern as this seems we are abruptly reminded of how remote we are by Jaime translating Spanish with Cirilo, who then had to translate into the indigenous Zapotec for his father, Don Cosme. By now we were accustomed to the kindness and hospitality of the people of Oaxaca, but no less thankful to be on the receiving end. The warmth between Cirilo and his family and Jaime was emotional to witness. Jaime treated us to a stunning dinner at the Los Danzantes restaurant that evening, and I may have over-indulged on some strong mezcal. My backgammon skills took a further dip.

LD 3

On our final morning Jaime and Sten, who is responsible for production and sustainability at Los Danzantes and Alipús, presented us some of their projects for the conservation of agave and the industry surrounding it; their passion and commitment is incredible.

IMG_3166


 

Quick guide: Del Maguey

DM-Original-Line-Med-Res-Transparent.png

Del Maguey – the original Single Village mezcal – was started in 1995 by artist Ron Cooper, and is a firm bartender favourite the world over. The first four villages (Chichicapa, San Luis del Rio, Santo Domingo Albarradas and Minero) are still the core range, along with the house pour level Vida and the dangerously moreish Crema de Mezcal, but an impressive variety of different villages and agaves now form part of the range.

Quick guide: Los Siete Misterios

SK3A7752-Editar copy.jpg

Single agave mezcals from the Sola de Vega region, distilled in clay pots and bottled by Julio and Eduardo Mestre. Each bottle is numbered and has the name of the master palenquero who produced it. Doba-Yej (a local name for espadin) is a copper-pot distilled mezcal designed to be a house pour.

Quick guide: Alipús

San Juan

Mezcals from villages around Oaxaca, sourced by Jaime of Los Danzantes as part of a project to support the locals. Five villages form the core range: San Baltazar, San Andrés, San Juan, Santa Ana and San Luis.

Quick guide: Los Danzantes

raneg

Owned by Jaime Munoz (a strong contender for nicest man in Oaxaca) and originally produced for the restaurant of the same name. A blanco, reposado and añejo are distilled at their distillery, soon to move to the newer site.


 

Glossary

flower

Quiote – The flowering stem of the agave, which shoots up from the mature plant. This is usually cut off in tequila production as it takes sugar from the plant. When they have flowered and gone to seed the plant dies.

h

Hijuelos – Small clones of a plant that sprouts up around the main plant after the 4th year of its life (though at the Siete Misterios nursery they have witnessed it in agave as young as 1 year). The most common form of agave propagation is to take these and replant them.

planque

Palenque – Mezcal distillery

DSC_8985

Molina – Big volcanic stone wheel in a pit for milling agave (called a tahona in Jalisco)


 

By Phil Duffy (Amathus Head of Spirits) 

 

Knightsbridge Soho City Shoreditch |

Follow @AmathusDrinks | Like us on Facebook