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Baldoria Vermouth – Story of Success from Rory Shepherd & Ben Cooper

Baldoria Vermouth – Story of Success from Rory Shepherd & Ben Cooper

Who stands behind the idea to create craft vermouth?

The idea stemmed from our love of vermouth and our desire to create something new. We have 2 bars and a restaurant in Paris that are successful and have received multiple awards for their creativity. We could have continued to open more but wanted to find something new with a more global reach and explore new lines of creativity. We created a new company called ERNEST which is the mother brand and logistics for Baldoria and all future products we plan to release.

 

How long did it take you to launch the brand – from the idea till the ready product?

We started the project in 2016 and launched our core range in March 2019 in France and Italy.

 

Why did you choose the category of vermouth for craft production?

We’ve always had a love for fortified wines, we love the diversity and range of vermouth, its possible to go in so many directions. Some of these directions had yet to be explored and we felt we had the skill set to go down new paths but still respect the tradition. Vermouths popularity is growing, people are starting to understand it more and through our knowledge of bars and understanding the market we saw a growth in interest.

 

Why did you choose the Argalà distillery as your manufacturer?

We’ve loved Argalà’s attitude for a long time. What we created was a collaboration that we couldn’t not do! Their skill set and knowledge of Piedmont’s plethora of ingredients worked well with our vision. 

 

Who are your Master Distiller and Master Blender?

Piero & Enrico head up our production. Myself & Ben Cooper are heavily involved with every batch tasting and decision.

 

What are the wine bases for Baldoria Vermouth and why were chosen these grape types?

Chardonnay is used throughout our core range and the Rosso has a splash of Nebbiolo. We use Chardonnay because it is light but characteristic, it complements the rest of the ingredients but also gives it a back bone. Nebbiolo is the same but less tannic than Barolo for example, the tannins give it a nice balance along with the sweetness of the sugars.

 

What are the unique herb ingredients that are making Baldoria Vermouth one of the kind?

Wormwood is the backbone of course. We edge towards floral notes which are aided along by our base spirit being a evaporation infused Genepi spirit. Along with those you can also find rosemary notes, lavender, sage and a whole lot more.

 

What are your plans with regards to the distribution network? Do you have any plans to distribute to Ukraine?

At the moment we are focusing a little closer to home, once our roots are grounded then we’ll look outward. We’re also working on our own distribution logistics but I’ll keep that hush for now 😉

 

Do you have any plans to launch additional spirit category for craft production apart of vermouth?

We will be releasing more vermouths under the Baldoria brand and our mother brand is called ERNEST, through this we are going to produce a number of different products in a number of different categories. Baldoria is just the first!

 

Would like to give some advises to others who would like to launch their own brand and what those advices would be?

Listen to your consumers, think long and hard about what you represent and what people want. You’ll make mistakes and always will, make sure you turn these mistakes into positives. It’s not easy to launch a brand but immensely satisfying seeing your bottles being used and loved.

Old Duff Genever – Story of success from Philip Duff

Old Duff Genever – Story of success from Philip Duff

What inspired you to create your brand?

I had fallen in love with genever after moving to Holland in 1995, doing a great deal of research and translating it from Dutch into English, and sharing it in my seminars. This partly lead to me being on the team that created the Bols 1820 genever that launched in 2009; I was on the tasting panel and the marketing team, and even wrote the text on the backlabel! 

After learning so much about how to create a brand, I saw the opportunity to create my own, exploiting the differences between “real” genever and the existing big brands such as Bols: my genever would be 100% milled, mashed, fermented, distilled and bottled in Holland, not Belgium; we would be honest and transparent about every aspect of where it is made and who makes it; and we would give back to the bartending community by donating the equivalent of USD $1 from each bottle sold to charities benefitting bartenders.

How close is the brand to a barman and a consumer and how does it work?

Very close: the bartender, and the bar, is everything. Even now, in the depths of COVID, bartenders are trusted guides to help introduce consumers to new, different and interesting spirits & cocktails just as a sommelier does with wine.

What is the difference between a craft brand and a usual mass brand? Where is the point of turning one into another?

It’s an almost endless debate! I think “craft” is – or should be – about how much care is taken in how the product is made. I know brands that sell 10, 000, 000 bottles per year that I wouldn’t hesitate to classify as “craft”, and I know brands which sell 1, 000 bottles per year which definitely are not craft.

Another major factor is transparency: if you are just using “craft” as a “magic-fairy-dust-marketing-slogan”, you aren’t craft. Craft is about honestly, and transparency, even if it’s awkward. As I always say, as the owner of a mega-authentic Dutch genever made at a Dutch distillery which traces its roots to 1777, it would be very convenient if I was Dutch, or even if I just didn’t tell people that I am Irish – but that wouldn’t be transparent.

If your brand was a person, how would they look? What would they be?

I’ve always thought that Old Duff Genever isn’t meant to appeal to everyone, its just for the people who understand and want it. I like to think the Old Duff “person” would be kind, thoughtful, well-dressed, well-informed, either taking the train or driving an Audi (not a Mercedes!), wearing a Swatch, or a Tag Heuer (but not a Rolex), vacationing in Varna or Portugal (but not Ibiza!), and drinking one or two tasty, authentic cocktails each day (instead of three or four bland ones).

 

TOOLS OF THE TRADE: BAR SPOONS

TOOLS OF THE TRADE: BAR SPOONS

Do you know the traditional names of the three common styles of bar spoon? Bar spoon, mazagran, and sucket? All were born before the advent of the modern bar, but this is not surprising since the spoon is the oldest of humankind’s dedicated eating utensils. 

The spoon is an ancient invention, used since Paleolithic times. It’s likely that early man used shells or bits of wood then began improving on nature’s designs hand crafting and perfecting his implements. In fact, the ancient Greek and Latin words for spoon comes from the word “cochlea”, a spiral shaped snail shell. Ancient Egyptian spoons have been unearthed in the tombs of the Pharaohs. Some of the earliest examples are made of painted wood. Later finds are made from a variety of materials including stone and ivory. Similarly, the spoon appears in the early Asian historical records spanning from China to India to Turkey.

Spoons were only embraced by the masses throughout Europe as recently as the Dark Ages. The earliest British mention of spoons appeared in a will dated 1279. It’s around this time that one style of bar spoon emerged in Germany. Now commonly known as a sucket spoon, this particular style of the bar spoon sports a fork on the opposite end (thus it is also sometimes called a sucket fork). It began its career as an efficient multi-purpose dining tool, often fashioned with a swirl in the shaft just like a modern bar spoon. In those days, it was not uncommon for people to own and carry a personal set of tableware for daily use. A multi-purpose tool was very convenient, just as it is for camping—and bartending—today.

After it arrived in England with the Saxons, the sucket spoon took its name from a British dessert. Sucket is made of preserved fruits and served either wet or dry. Dry sucket is similar to marmalade, cooked until it can be served in chunks. Wet sucket is simply fruit cooked and served in syrup. This favourite dish of Queen Elizabeth I is politely eaten with the sucket spoon so that the morsels of fruit can be forked out of the syrup.

By the mid- to late-1800s, the sucket spoon was sold to and used in American bars, placed in mixed drinks containing fruit. This allowed patrons to stir their drinks with the spoon and eat the fruit with the fork.

The familiar bar spoon with a muddler on one end can be traced to the French apothecary spoon—the cuillière medicament—which was popularised during the 18th century. (However, there are spoons with heavy ornaments that might have served the same purpose date back to ancient Greece. But there is no historical record as to their purpose.)

The muddler on the French apothecary spoons was used to break up crystallised and coarsely powdered medicines so they could be dissolved in liquids. The bowl of the spoon was also carefully designed to hold a precise amount of liquid. Its shape allowed the pharmacist to use a flat knife to scrape across the top of the spoon and measure a level spoonful of powder.

This spoon appears in catalogues printed by London wine and spirits merchants Farrow & Jackson. Shown next to a plain long spoon with a twisted handle labelled a “bar spoon” in their 1898 catalogue, they sold it as a French mazagran spoon. These two styles appeared again in Charlie Paul’s 1902 Recipes of American and Other Iced Drinks published by the same company. By then the apothecary spoon had indeed already become popular in France for social use as evidenced in Louis Fouquet’s book from the same period Bariana: Receuil Pratique de Toutes Boissons Américaines et Anglaises.

A coffee drink called mazagran is said to be named for an 1840 French military victory near the Algerian town of Mazagran on the outskirts of Mostaghanem. Although it was little more than a skirmish, when it appeared in the French press the number of enemy combatants had risen twenty-fold to over 20,000. A model of the fort defended by the French was built in the Champs Elysées. Many souvenirs were sold. A Parisian street was named after the event. The captain who led the battle received the coveted Legion of Honour. Funds that were raised for the battle’s widows and orphans were returned when it was eventually revealed there were no French casualties. And the eponymously-named drink became a fashion trend nationwide: espresso in a tall glass, two or three lumps of French beet sugar crushed with a muddling spoon, topped with cold water (because the troops in the battle had no milk or brandy). By the First World War, American troops discovered it as a muddled drink fortified with a pony of Cognac.

Today, the mazagran spoon is the most common of the bar spoons found behind the bar, though the proper name was lost a century ago. No layered drink, no pousse café can be made easily without its twisted shafted and muddler end.

The sucket spoon is also making a revival as bartenders find new uses for its shape. However, its original purpose, allowing customers to fish the fruit from their drinks, seems to be lost at the moment.

The plain bar spoon, simply a long slender spoon, often with a twisted stem to facilitate stirring, was once the most common of implements. However, with no fork or muddler to add a second purpose and a touch of flourish to its existence, it seems to be fading away.

by Anistatia Miller & Jared Brown

The Secret Past of Molecular Mixing—According to Mixellany

The Secret Past of Molecular Mixing—According to Mixellany

“You have to know the past to understand the present.” — Carl Sagan, Astronomer

Molecular mixology is the crucible of cocktail trends. By nature it is and will always be the frontier of mixing. Pioneering new concepts are born by testing the limits of ingredients, engineering new ways to combine and present flavours. However, this is hardly new. An article in a Chicago newspaper describes a customer’s amazement at ice spheres in cocktails in a Chicago bar. The article went on to say that bar also used perfect 2-inch cubes to control dilution. This is hardly impressive, except that article appeared over a century ago—in 1898. 

Here’s a remarkable molecular mint julep: whiskey redistilled with mint to create a clear mint whiskey. Then load the still with water and mint to create a mint hydrosol. Infuse sherry with saffron for 10-12 days. Strain out the saffron, and combine the sherry with an equal measure of sugar to create a saffron sherry syrup. Build a julep with the clear mint whiskey and the mint hydrosol. Add the sherry syrup, bringing the classic colour and a beautiful flavour to the drink. 

What’s truly remarkable about the recipe above? It’s one of a series of variations that appears in a book from Dublin, published in 1753. 

Jelly shots. Most bartenders today consider them to be modern abominations. Most bartenders have never seen the original recipes from their inventor, renowned chef Alexis Benoit Soyer who created them during the 1840s. Professor Jerry Thomas was so enamoured with Soyer’s work he included at least half a dozen of Soyer’s recipes in his 1862 book, The Bar-Tender’s Guide or How to Mix Drinks, including Soyer au Champagne. He also tried to get a job in London working for the great chef. Unfortunately the admiration wasn’t reciprocated. Thomas ended up working down the road at the American Bowling Saloon in the Cremorne Pleasure Gardens. 

While jelly shots are easy to serve, it is important for bartenders to ensure people are not over-served, as the alcohol is somewhat more concealed. However, even responsible service is not new. Professor Jerry Thomas himself remarked: “the strength of the punch is so artfully concealed by its admixture with the gelatine, that many persons, particularly of the softer sex have been tempted to partake so plentifully of it as to render them somewhat unfit for waltzing or quadrilling after supper.” Bear this in mind even if your guests aren’t quadrilling. 

How fast can you bring a drink to a boil? A microwave takes as long as a minute to bring a cup of water to a boil. A kettle or urn keeps it at a boil, but depletes the dissolved oxygen, flattening the flavour. In the past, bartenders could bring a drink to a boil in five seconds using a loggerhead. However, this rapid temperature rise added certain flavours. These flavours—internal to hot drinks from the time, and to drinks still made today—have sadly been lost.

The loggerhead is a uniquely designed fireplace implement. They still appear on eBay mislabelled as fire pokers. With a shorter handle and a large lump of metal as opposed to a sharp point they are as useful for poking a fire as mittens are for playing piano, but that lump of metal holds a lot of heat. Leave one in the fireplace until it becomes red hot. Don’t plunge it into a drink. The liquid expands so rapidly it launches out of the vessel leaving the bartender soaked and the cup empty. Instead, touch it to the surface. Then lower it gently into the drink, touching bottom on a five-count. Now, the drink is not only boiling but sugars in the liquid have caramelised and touch of charcoal is introduced, giving drinks a unique and historically accurate flavour. Working with red-hot pokers is very dangerous, so due care must be taken as ever around open flames such as fireplaces. 

 

Barrel and bottle ageing of cocktails has become all the rage. Bars are even discovering that the char or toast and the conditioning makes an enormous difference. Harry Johnson, author of The New and Improved Bartenders Manual (1882), would be proud. He felt every good bartender should know how to care for products in barrels and to use those barrels to ensure superior spirits, even of the same brand carried by other bars. He lamented that more spirits were being sold exclusively in bottles. Jerry Thomas advocated bottled cocktails. There is no question that mixed drinks mature in bottle, as demonstrated by many great bartenders today. Leo Engel, another giant from bartending history bottled his punches, remarking on how well they mellowed over time. 

While molecular techniques such as the dry shake seem recent, unlike ice, the cocktail shaker has a longer history than most people would imagine. Centuries before the U.S. patents often cited as indicating when they were invented, the cocktail shaker predates the United States. The “doppelfosbecher” meaning double-barrelled beaker was a set of equal-sized tins that fit seamlessly together. These were common in German taverns back to the 15th century. The mixing technique they used, throwing, was sadly lost around the beginning of the 20th century and is only now returning. This technique gives a drink the clarity of stirring with better aeration than shaking. A couple old New York bartenders were overheard around 1895 watching a young colleague fill a shaker, shake a drink and strain it into a glass without throwing the drink. One turned to the other and called it the death of the profession. 

Even the word mixology has a long history. While Webster’s Dictionary claims ‘mixology’ was first used in 1948, we’ve traced it back as far as 1872. 

There are many more great new molecular discoveries mouldering in the pages of old books and newspapers. They are waiting in the past for the next bartender who wants to shape the future. They can be found through newspaper archives, both free (such as chroniclingamerica.loc.gov) and by subscription (such as  ). These may not be the base of every new invention, but more often than not, lasting discoveries will have their roots firmly in history—and there is no question there are still countless new ideas waiting for today’s molecular mixologists.

[This article previously appeared on theworldclassclub.com in May 2016]

by Anistatia Miller and Jared Brown

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