All posts filed under: Bottles

Obscure Liqueur: How to Use Suze

Once upon a time, when I was 13, I desperately wanted a velvet blazer. Preferably in dark purple, but the colour wasn’t the most important thing. Unfortunately for me, the year 2000 was not a high point for velvet blazers – I might have been better off checking in 1977 – and I never got my hands on one. Imagine my delight, then, when I was in the midst of some idle online shopping this week and discovered that velvet blazers are THE THING for autumn. I have my eye on an oversized burgundy number and I couldn’t be happier. My point, in case you hadn’t quite hunted it down, is that things come back around. As it is for velvet blazers, so it goes for obscure European bitter liqueurs. I can only hope that hipster bartenders everywhere are as thrilled as my inner 13-year old. OK, so Suze isn’t that obscure. I’m reasonably sure they’ve kept on drinking it in France all this time. Nonetheless, it’s only recently that it has become widely available …

Sloe Gin And What To Do With It

Sloe gin is one of those drinks I think of as quintessentially English – something you pick up in farm shops in the autumn or that Miss Marple might have made in her spare time. It’s not really gin, exactly, but a fruit liqueur made by macerating sloes in gin. I’m not convinced I’ve ever seen a sloe in real life, but they’re the fruit of the blackthorn tree, and essentially a cousin of plums and damsons. I’m told they’re not particularly pleasant to eat (I think if you’ve ever eaten an unripe damson you get the idea), but with the addition of sugar they can be transformed into jams, pie fillings, and of course this lovely deep red, sweet-tart liqueur. If you’ve got access to a blackthorn tree, you can harvest the sloes right around now, in October and November, and make your own sloe gin pretty easily. For a simple sloe gin recipe, (plus instructions for a similarly seasonal quince syrup and how to combine them), I found this great post on Mother’s Ruin. I sadly do not have …

Getting To Know Amari: Amaro Averna & the Black Manhattan

If you’ve looked at the menu in a cocktail bar in the last decade or so, or indeed looked at any cocktail posts on Instagram – something I spend far too much time doing – you will have noticed a profusion of impenetrable names on the ingredients list like ‘Cynar’, ‘Averna’, ‘Fernet Branca’, ‘Ramazzotti’, which have certainly caused me, in the past, to reach unobtrusively for my phone and Google what the hell they are. All these, along with many others, belong to the group of liqueurs known as ‘amari.’ Amaro in Italian just means ‘bitter’, and many, if not most of these liqueurs are indeed Italian, commonly drunk after dinner as a digestif. They are made by macerating herbs, spices, and roots in a neutral spirit or wine, and adding caramel or sugar syrup to sweeten it. Common flavourings include gentian, cinchona (the same tree used to make quinine), anise, cinnamon, along with many others. The most famous (and currently the most widely used), are the luridly coloured Campari, and its sweeter cousin Aperol. On an amari …