Archive for the ‘Drink’ Category
Whenever Rachel Barrie takes a sip of whisky, she goes on a journey in her head. Smoky whiskies send her sailing on the rough seas; dark, sweet whiskies have her foraging for autumn berries; light, breezy malts have her at a summer garden party. She was given her first job in whisky in 1991, when she identified 20 different bottles by nose alone. Twelve years later, she became the first female Master Blender in history. In short, the woman is something of a savant.
With Burns Night on its way, Rachel, 44, is about to initiate me into the dark art of whisky and food pairing at the Blythsmore Hotel restaurant in Glasgow. Despite the fact that whisky-and-food nights are popping up all over Britain’s metropolises, the idea of drinking whisky rather than wine with a meal is still rather outré. But when water is added, the alcohol content is softened and a little whisky goes a long way. And such is the depth and richness of single malt, says Rachel, that it can add an entirely new dimension to a meal.
“Whisky is the new champagne,” she says. “In terms of heritage, provenance, and how you drink it, it resembles château wine. But you get even more of a range of flavours in whisky. It will do more for your food than wine ever will.” Continue reading on the Telegraph website
It is only when he explains his method that I realise he is serious. A laboratory technician – yes, laboratory technician – extracts the juice from a tomato, blends it with salt and miso, and “clarifies” it by putting it through a centrifuge. It is then coloured with orange food dye and “spherised” with a little gadget; calcium is added to form a skin. Finally, the nascent “yolks”, which look like translucent bubbles, are placed in a bath of alginate, then water, to be stabilised. There, you have it. No joke. Eggless egg yolk.
This – hidden away in a former Pink Floyd recording studio in Islington – is the Drinks Factory. Founded in 2009 by the British-Italian Conigliaro, a self-proclaimed “expert alchemist” and erstwhile International Bartender of the Year who mixes molecular gastronomy with bartending, it is the only cocktail laboratory in existence. Technicians glide about wearing a cross between chef’s uniforms and lab coats. Willy Wonka-style machines with names like “peristotic pump” and “thermamixer” hum mysteriously. Blue liquid inches through tubes, and beakers of maroon substances revolve in chemical baths.
Christmas, as you may have noticed, is almost upon us. Despite the kit in his lab, Conigliaro’s new book, Drinks – which has a foreword by Heston Blumenthal – contains many recipes that can be thrown together at home to add pizzazz to your Chrimbo. But first he takes me on a tour of his flavour library.
At the top of a bank of shelves is a collection of old and discontinued drinks: Marshall’s Syrup from 1910; Schweppes orange wine from the Twenties; Martini & Rossi vermouth from the Thirties. These are “needled”, analysed and recreated, Jurassic Park-style. (There is also a half-evaporated bottle of 1914 Moët & Chandon, which, being undrinkable, is kept for “inspiration”.) Continue reading on the Telegraph website
If you’re looking to buy a present for a present for a distingué chap, chances are you’ll be considering a nice bottle of whisky. And you’ll not be alone. Over the past year, the whisky market has grown by five to 10 per cent in Britain, with premium single malts becoming especially popular. Around 1.4 million cases of single malt were sold in 2012, and there has been a significant increase in numbers of collectors and investors as well as those seeking to drink it.
This is reflected in the opening of a new flagship branch of The Whisky Shop in London’s Piccadilly, opposite the Ritz. It is a shining Holy of Holies of a place, where bottles of amber liquid glint against black marble. At the back a “whisky library” lurks, complete with a sliding ladder to reach the upper shelves and a pair of neon angel’s wings mounted on the ceiling, representing – you guessed it – the “angel’s share”.
“In the Eighties and Nineties, people suddenly started experimenting with a massive range of new wines,” says Andrew Torrance, the Managing Director, standing priest-like on the highly polished shop floor. “The same is now happening with whisky. People are becoming more aware of its fundamental quality. There is an appreciation that this is a hand crafted, hand made, very special product, which has been lying in a cask for decades. It is being seen in the same light as Gucci or Prada.” Continue reading on the Telegraph website
The weather is glorious when I step off the two-carriage train at Caersws in the heart of rural Wales. It has been along journey, and I am in need of a drink. John Martin, a 45-yearold procurement consultant, has driven to the station to collect me. He is wearing a Tshirt with a “Waen Brewery” logo, but the brewery is not his business. It belongs to his wife, Sue Hayward.
The Waen Brewery is an astonishing story of success. Sue, a hobbyist beer maker, founded it in 2009, and within three years it had tripled in size in terms of output, turnover and physical space. The brewery occupies 2,000 sq ft and produces 540 gallons of beer per week. As we bounce along country lanes, John explains that this output is still nowhere near enough to meet demand. Sue has just invested £30,000 in new brewing equipment, which will increase the beer production capacity threefold.
In the brewery’s large warehouse space there is a bar at one end, and wooden vats bubbling everywhere. Sue is standing behind the bar when we arrive; she catches my eye, and I see that she has already started pulling my pint. Around her are several other women sitting on bar stools, all of whom run breweries up and down the country. I have been allowed to attend a secret meeting of an underground group of female beer brewers – or “brewsters”, as they like to be called – which meets every few weeks to share recipes and techniques. The group, organised on social networking sites, is known as Project Venus. Continue reading on the Telegraph website
“My husband retired from his City job when he was 45,” says Sarah Driver as she noses her car up a steep country lane near the village of Alfriston, East Sussex. “I was terrified that he’d just be sneaking around the house with nothing to do, making a nuisance of himself for 40 years. So when he said he had signed up for a full-time course in viniculture, I was delighted. Little did I know the scale of his ambition.”
As we reach the crown of the hill, a green and pleasant Sussex landscape is revealed: a sun-soaked, slanting bowl of 600 acres, protected from the prevailing winds by an escarpment of National Trust land. In the distance, blue and magnificent, is the English Channel. This is the Rathfinny Estate, which the Drivers bought in October 2010 for around £4 million. Under Mark Driver’s stewardship, it will soon be England’s largest vineyard.
To most people, the words “English” and “wine” (like “French” and “Pimm’s”) should never be used in the same sentence. The idea conjures up images of Sixties Babycham, or of dodgy elderflower plonk brewed in bathrooms by dandruffy men with flowery shirts and unkempt beards. Not exactly the epitome of sophistication.
“Disgusting!” says Driver when we meet. “That’s what English wine was like 20 years ago. But these days it’s a different story. Our sparkling wine has now officially been recognised as world class.”
Over the past eight years, English sparkling wine producers have won more international awards than any other country. In 2010, Sussex-based Ridgeview won the esteemed Decanter award, the first time it had ever been awarded to a non-French producer. In the same year, Nyetimber’s Classic Cuvée, a sparkling wine also made in Sussex, beat the likes of Bollinger and Pommery to win the award for best in the world. A similar accolade was given to Cornwall-based Camel Valley in 2009, and to Ridgeview in 2005.
“Climate change has meant that over the last 20 years, southern England has come to share the same climate as the Champagne area,” Driver explains. “We already have almost identical chalky soil, as Rathfinny lies on the same band of chalk that forms the Paris Basin. Now this is reflected in our wines. This is the time for English fizz.” Continue reading on the Telegraph website