Drinks International

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    Angel Brown speaks to Lorena Seligson co-founder of We Are Bartenders and cocktail writer Tell us little about Tulum’s drinking culture. What are the traditional drinks andRead More

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The bar with shapes for a name

Above the door of a bar on 232 Kinglsand Road will be three shapesThere will be no name. Or at least, not one involving words.

So the name is: Yellow Triangle, Red Square, Blue Circle? Yes, but no, says the bar’s co-founders Remy Savage and Paul Lougrat, “the shapes are the name”.

If you’re not shaking your head right now, you’re probably scratching it. That’s not the intention, but it’s not not the intention either. When Savage is involved, you can always expect more questions than answers. His curiosity is naturally disruptive and in Lougrat he has found a co-conspirator. Besides, Savage has form in form. At Little Red Door in Paris he devised a menu in which artwork was the medium of cocktail description, then followed up with a drinks list inspired by applied architecture. At Artesian in London he and Lougrat worked on menus designed around evoking moments and memories and then a list of drinks that questioned the constitution of a cocktail – each drink had two principal ingredients.

If you haven’t got the link, the bar is inspired by the functionalism and minimalism of the Bauhaus movement; the name a reference to the work of one its key architects Wassily Kandinsky. Among the 20th century artist’s achievements was to find correspondence between form and colour; his work found commonality between yellow and triangles, red and squares, blue and circles.

When the bar opens – around December 10 – it will be very different from first imagined (and reported on Drinks in Oct 2019). Then, Art Nouveau was going to be the directing theme, but one step into the 60-cover ground-floor site closer to Haggerston than Hoxton, and it was clear they had to change the concept to something more functional. After their homage to Bauhaus, the decorative, naturalistic period of Art Nouveau could be the sequel of their own little movement.

“What we want to do is take an artistic vision and bring it to life in a way that isn’t pretentious, but is funny and playful,” says Savage. “Bauhaus was a movement for the people – and so will be the bar: approachable minimal drinks and super-fast service,” says Lougrat. “We are trying to follow the same process as Bauhaus but for drinks. We are trying to imagine what the pioneers of Bauhaus would create as a bar.”

Born in Germany between two world wars, Bauhaus was also a movement of scarcity, and so the bar will only stock 20 lines – each chosen by blind tasting. “Our goal is flavour,” says Savage. “In the Bauhaus it wouldn’t make sense to have 400 bottles. One of its pioneers, Mies van der Rohe, coined the phrase ‘less is more’.” So don’t necessarily expect conventional choices – Green Spot is their house whiskey and a quince spirit is just one of three eaux de vies included.

“We want to create problems for ourselves in order to solve them,” says Savage. Lougrat adds: “We asked ourselves if we need a bourbon, or can we find a way to make one from other whiskies.” Their 20 choices will underpin nine of their own drinks and five or six twists on classics. Twists not of whim but of a function of the limitations of their back bar. There will be wine and beer and in terms of food, they launch with one dish: Duck Egg Parfais, cooked sous vide in lapsang tea water, with caviar and bread crust.

The bar takes its form over two rooms. The lab at the back, while also open to guests, will host speakers twice a week; the classroom of their Bauhaus school. “The front room, will be the clean design as you’d expect from Bauhaus,” says Lougrat. Here there’ll be louder music and more fun. It’ll be affordable too. “One of the principles of Bauhaus was affordability,” says Savage. “We want to be the cheapest bar in a cheap neighbourhood, despite the fact we will be using quality ingredients.” Outside of pandemic restrictions, there is also a late licence, indeed, 5am is pretty much a morning licence. Good and bad news for bartenders looking for after-shift drinks.

As any school, the exchange of information and the debating of principles, is key. “I want us to argue,” says Savage. In this spirit, all recipes will be shared on the bar’s Instagram. There will also be a student exchange programme. So, the opening team – owners Savage and Lougrat – and Maria Kontorravdis, will be joined by paid interns. “Every three months we’ll have someone different. We start with a married couple from Belgium.”

The bar has all the elements to be a hit. But the name is both a conversation piece and a conversation hurdle. “It was important for us to have a name that could be understood in every language,” says Savage. “So in English it will be known as Yellow Triangle, Red Square, Blue Circle. In French Triangle Jaune, Carré Rouge, Cercle Bleu… For locals it will just be their local bar,” he says.

In written or spoken form, it is human nature to reduce long names to short, normally editing from the back. So we may end up with Yellow Triangle. Ironic then, that the yellow triangle emoji is currently unavailable on Facebook, Instagram, Iphone and this website. The closest you can get is a yellow warning triangle. A sign? “Being conceptually coherent is the only thing that resonates,” says Savage. Indeed, the pair have written to Apple and its emoji producer Unicode to release a yellow triangle. And there has been a social media campaign. There’s something comforting about protesting the right to a yellow triangle emoji during a pandemic.

And what about the bar’s Google listing? It’s hard to imagine a bar you can’t Google. “I like the idea that life without Google can be a thing,” says Savage. “In the era of technology, we can be a technological speakeasy.” After all, creativity through limitation is the Bauhaus way.

Kirker Greer Spirits gains French distribution deal

Kirker Greer Spirits has launched in France after securing a deal with wine and spirits importer, Maison Milhade.

Maison Mihade will initially distribute Bowsaw American Whiskey and Ginato Italian Gin, with more brands in the portfolio set to launch throughout the year.

John Soden, CCO of Kirker Greer Spirits said: “This year we want to continue to elevate our premium spirits portfolio in Europe and we are delighted to have Maison Milhade on board to deliver this for us in France.

“They have a fantastic reputation and a great network which will see both Bowsaw and Ginato available across the country. We look forward to working with them to establish our brands in the French market, in retail outlets, on-trade and online.”

Charlotte Milhade, managing director of Maison Milhade added: “The branding, packaging and taste of these premium spirits will contribute to their success in France, which is a very competitive market for spirits. Clients are looking for new, young and craft products – Bowsaw and Ginato fit the bill perfectly.

“At Milhade we work mostly in the off-trade market with a group of 40 sales reps covering the entire French territory. We develop the on-trade market with national and regional w

Bollinger to acquire US-based Ponzi Vineyards

The Bollinger family has announced the acquisition of Oregon-based Ponzi Vineyards which will be its first winery in the US.

The purchase includes the winery and hospitality facilities 40 minutes from Portland, Oregon, in addition to the 35 acres of vineyards.

Bollinger chairman and CEO Etienne Bizot said: “The US is such an important market for luxury champagne, Burgundy, Sancerre, Cognac, and other regions in which our family owns wineries.

“If there was anywhere outside of France where we felt it was critical to invest, it is in the US. We have quietly considered opportunities for a number of years, but it is finally with the Ponzi family that we feel we have found the ideal fit.

“Their bold vision to come to Oregon, the subsequent decades of recognition for continually innovating and improving – we have so much respect for what the Ponzis have achieved, and look forward to building on it together, and connecting all our brands more closely with the U.S. market.”

The Ponzi family will retain 100 acres of vineyards and will grow and sell the grapes to Ponzi Vineyards under a long-term contract.

Vintus, current Ponzi Vineyards national sales and marketing agent, and importer of Champagne Bollinger, Champagne Ayala, Domaine Chanson and Langlois-Chateau, will continue to represent Ponzi’s trade distribution in the US.

Beefeater introduces lower-abv botanical spirit drink

Beefeater has announced Beefeater Botanics Lemon & Ginger, a 27.5% abv spirit drink.

Beefeater Botanics, which was launched as a pilot test in Canada in March 2021, is made with no added sugar and no artificial flavours or sweeteners.

“Beefeater Botanics is crafted by distilling the Beefeater London Dry base, with our nine famous botanicals, before natural flavours of lemon and ginger are added,” said Desmond Payne, master distiller at Beefeater.

“The refreshingly balanced taste of fruit flavours are achieved with no compromise, crafted with excellence and using only the best ingredients.”

This launch comes as the latest in product innovations for the London-based gin brand, with Beefeater Pink Strawberry and Beefeater Blood Orange now distributed in over 75 markets and growing +12%.

“Innovation is at the heart of Beefeater and it has been a strong start to the year for us, delivering new packaging worldwide and three new pilot tests: Beefeater Light in Spain, Beefeater Peach & Raspberry in the UK and now, Beefeater Botanics in Canada,” commented Murielle Dessenis, global brand director.

“For us, innovation is about driving the premium, quality credentials of Beefeater but also responding to key consumer trends in each market to offer our core target consumer, 25-34-year-old Urban Explorers, something new and exciting.

“We know that for these consumers social connections are important and Beefeater Botanics will open up new drinking options not only to recruit new consumers into the brand but the wider gin category.”

BrewDog expands gin offering with LoneWolf Peach & Passionfruit

BrewDog Distilling Co has launched LoneWolf Peach & Passionfruit gin as the latest expansion of its spirits portfolio.

The gin was launched on 29 March and is available in the off trade as well as BrewDog bars across the UK, with a RRP £25.

Steven Kersley, director of distilling operations, said: “Launching a peach & passionfruit gin might seem a bit of a curve-ball for LoneWolf as this flavour combination takes our classic London Dry in a whole new direction.

“It came about from the success of our LoneWolf 12 Gins of Christmas advent calendar which included a white peach gin. Feedback on the peach was really positive so we decided to play around with complimentary flavours, finding that passionfruit added bold tropical notes and yuzu really dialled up the citrus bite alongside grapefruit and lemon peel.

“These all sit alongside the synonymous juniper notes of LoneWolf gin. The result is a serious summer crowd pleaser, best served with tonic and a slice of fresh peach. Once our BrewDog bars re-open soon we’re seeing this one being a bit hit.”

Severe frost devastates French vineyards

Vineyards across France have been hit hard by overnight frosts, partially compromising the 2021 harvest.

The frost has hit 80 per cent of French vineyards across most of France’s winegrowing regions, including the Rhône Valley, Bordeaux, Burgundy, Champagne and the Loire.

The French government has declared an ‘agricultural disaster’.

“We already know that some sectors have been affected in their entirety. We will not be able to measure the real impact of this frost episode until the next 24 to 48 hours,” said Philippe Pellaton, president of Inter-Rhône.

“My most sincere thoughts go to all the vine-growers hard hit by this unprecedented frost episode.”

Temperatures dipped as low as -5C as winemakers lit braseros, straw fires and candles throughout the night in attempts to spare the buds already bloomed.

While the extent of the devastation is not yet fully understood, the frost arrives as a new threat to an industry already damaged by the effects of the coronavirus pandemic and U.S. tariffs.

Cape Fine & Rare Wine Auction celebrates South Africa’s winemaking skill and tenacious spirit

Wine lovers will have the opportunity to get their hands on some rare gems at the Cape Fine & Rare Wine Auction on May 22.

It will take place in a hybrid format for the first time, meaning that buyers from across the world can tune in and bid for the wines online.

Some of the rarest wines that will go under the gavel of Christie’s auctioneer Charlie Foley include Chateau Libertas 1970, Kanonkop Paul Sauer 2009, Le Lude Rose Agrafe 2012, Nederburg Private Bin Eminence 1999, Uva Mira O.T.V 2015, Vilafonte Series C 2005,  and Zonnebloem Cabernet Sauvignon 1970.

The wines for the auction were selected by a panel of respected South African wine insiders, including Cathy van Zyl MW, Michael Fridjhon and François Rautenbach.

Older bottles of well-preserved South African wine are becoming increasingly rare due to a dearth of temperature-controlled cellars in the past.

Cape Fine & Rare has sourced several pristine bottles for the hybrid auction, which will see 50 bidders attend in-person. Some go back as far as the 1960s.

Foley, who worked in Constantia before joining Christie’s, expects it to be a popular event. “We’ve had more bidders and buyers in the last year than we’ve ever had before,” he told Drinks International. “Christie’s clients want anything that’s rare really. Our clientele have dinner with friends and they want to bring out something that wows. In the case of these rare South African wines – David & Nadia, Eben Sadie and the early Kanonkop wines – you just can’t find them anywhere else.

“A 1999 Kanonkop was selling in 2019 for something like £50 a bottle, but the only place I can find it is in Japan at £150. Bidding at auction allows you to get things at an amazing price that no one else has.”

Some of South Africa’s leading brands emerged in the 1990s, and there were some gems of the era, which have been preserved over the past two decades. These wines could represent a strong investment opportunity due to their rarity.

Wine Cellar SA predicts that annual long-term returns of 10% to 20% are achievable on fine South African wine.

“South African fine wines present a real opportunity for both experienced collectors and those taking their first steps towards building a collection,” said Foley, who is renowned for wearing colourful jackets during auctions. “Fine wines from the country are of exceptional quality but are the lowest priced worldwide. This makes them excellent value for money. Now is definitely the time to be trying South Africa’s fine and rare wines.”

He appreciates the potential of South African fine wine to increase in value and preserve the holder’s wealth in the years ahead, but Foley expects most bidders to drink the wine they secure.

“You always hope that the clients are drinking the wine. Some cases we see coming back of Henri Jayer and those sort of things. That’s just the nature of the blue chip market. In the case of wines at a certain price point, our clients are probably drinking them.

“South Africa has always had that place between Old World and New World. It’s got that ripeness of the New World style wines, but then also that elegant restraint of Old World wines. For the last few years, South Africa has really hit the nail on the head, offering both ripeness and restraint at the same time. You can find wines that you want to drink. I always say with investment that’s the key thing, because if you are investing in something and you want to resell it, with Bordeaux and Burgundy that’s all good – or it has been in the past – but if fails then you want to be able to drink it.”

The South African wine trade has endured a very challenging year, as production, domestic sales and exports have all been significantly hampered by strict measures designed to curb the spread of Covid-19.

“It’s terrible really, because they’ve had five restricted periods and it has been more difficult to find volume wines from South Africa on shelves, because of export issues,” said Foley. “That has been a problem. South Africa in the past few years has been trying to premiumise away from its traditional [position] alongside Chile and Australia of vast swathes of ripe wine for the supermarkets. It has interrupted the premiumisation process, which is a bit sad, but we’re going to come roaring back and that should be great.

“The whole scheme of selling wine in South Africa has changed, and this particular auction is about a panel of expert judges taking a panel of excellent wine from the trendiest producers and offering it mainly now South African privates, but the aim of Christie’s involvement is obviously international privates, because you want to get bang for your buck. They are happy to sell in rand, but would rather sell in pounds or Swiss francs or dollars.

“The thing that’s grown up in the New World that’s quite interesting, in Napa and now in South Africa, is allocation. David & Nadia is a good example of these beautiful Chenins from Swartland, made in tiny quantities from old bush vines, and you can only get them when they release their vintages to their agents. It’s the same way you can only get DRC at Corney & Barrow. If you’re not on the allocation, you’re not getting it, so the auction is a way for people to explore those wines, to get hold of an allocation, which is the future of collectible New World wine.”

The auction will feature all manner of rare wines, including Zonnebloem Cabernet Sauvignon 1961, Graham Beck Brut 1994, Thelema Cabernet Sauvignon 1994, David & Nadia Hoe – Steen Chenin Blanc 2017, Lammershoek Die Ounooi 2018 Chardonnay, Sadie Family Vineyards Soldaat 2017, David & Nadia Skaliekop Chenin Blanc 2015, Delaire Graff Cabernet Sauvignon 2009, and Kanonkop Paul Sauer Bordeaux Blend 2009.

Foley is particularly excited about the Chenin and Cabernet. “I’m always blown away by South African Chenin. The Loire is all well and good, but it’s hit and miss on various different sweetness levels, but dry Chenin from the Swartland is just amazing. I would just stock up on all of those. Cabernet has really found its way in Stellenbosch, from the Cabernet Collective. Older things from Kanonkop are good. Look out for rare things in larger formats from old vintages.”

Symington family bottles six vintage ports for 2019

The Symingtons have bottled six Quinta Vintage Ports from 2019 and will release two en primeur – Quinta do Vesúvio and Dow’s Quinta da Senhora da Ribeira.

The release will be accompanied by two limited edition cases from both estates, each containing the 2019, 2009 and 1999 vintage ports.

The other Quinta Vintage Ports produced in 2019 – Graham’s Quinta dos Malvedos, Dow’s Quinta do Bomfim, Warre’s Quinta da Cavadinha and Cockburn’s Quinta dos Canais – will remain in the Symington cellars in Vila Nova de Gaia for future release.

Charles Symington, fourth generation winemaker, said: “When reviewing the top wines from 2019, we felt that the best expression of our grape varieties came from our six principal quintas.

“These estate wines are always the starting point from which we judge the year’s vintage port potential and, from there, decide what to bottle. In 2019, the various plots of vineyards within each of these estates delivered small volumes of wine with fantastic depth and complexity.

“We believe these wines could not have been enhanced by blending across each of our port houses’ top quintas to produce a ‘classic’ vintage port. Instead, we decided to blend the best performing components within each of our estates and bottle six Quinta Vintage Ports.

“These exciting and lively young wines represent the absolute pinnacle of the 2019 harvest. They are stunning today and I believe they will age beautifully over many decades.”

Buffalo Trace launches second line of Kosher whiskeys

Buffalo Trace has released its annual supply of Kosher whiskey which is set to arrive at retail in May this year.

This is the second successive year that Buffalo Trace has produced Kosher whiskey and the Sazerac-owned distiller first began working with the Chicago Rabbinical Council (cRc-Kosher) in 2010.

Kosher law mandates that whiskey should not be owned or consumed by Jews during Passover. In 2012 the cRc oversaw the sale of new American Oak Kosher barrels in a contract of sale to a non-Jewish executive, Buffalo Trace distillery president Mark Brown, where they were filled with whiskey to age.

The whiskey is available in three styles: Kosher Rye Recipe Bourbon, Kosher Wheat Recipe Bourbon and Kosher Straight Rye Whiskey.

Prior to the bottling, the lines at the distillery are flushed completely to ensure the whiskey is not exposed to any non-Kosher spirits.

“We were overwhelmed with the popularity of our Kosher whiskey when we first released it last year,” said Drew Mayville, master blender, director of quality.

“We realise having a truly certified Kosher whiskey is important to not only the Jewish community, but also a broader audience, and we’re pleased that we have the ability to offer it each year to reach this audience.”

As Passover ended this year on 4 April, the whiskey will be released to distributors after bottling later this month. Bottles will sell through wholesalers and retailers before Passover begins again in 2022.

The labels depict both the Buffalo Trace logo and cRc-Kosher logos and has a suggested retail price of £32.99 per 750ml bottle.

Pietro Collina: The roaming Roman

While most enter hospitality via high-volume bars or nightclubs, Pietro Collina got his first role at private members’ bar Mark’s Club in London aged 16.

He backed this up with a part time role at a Michelin-starred restaurant during his final year of school, which opened his mind to the culinary world and led him to New York to study at the Culinary institute of America.

Collina’s first big career move was landing a job on the floor at Eleven Madison Park in the centre of Manhattan when it had only recently opened. “The drive of that place was incredible because after we earned our first Michelin star we jumped straight to three, which had never happened before,” says Collina.

“I was actually looking at a career in wine at that point but the sommelier team was so strong that it was almost impossible to break into and after a couple of years I got behind the bar. “I realised the bartender, Leo Robitschek was having the most fun out of anyone so I asked to join him. I was still very much into food at that point so I wanted to bring that element behind the bar too.”

By 2013 Collina was splitting his time between Eleven Madison Park and Make it Nice Hospitality’s new restaurant at Nomad. “I basically begged to work at Nomad and it was a breath of fresh air because there was such a wide range of personalities working under the same roof. There was a combination of experienced bartenders and youngsters full of potential and the place had a vibrant buzz about it.”

Just a year later Collina was made head bartender at Nomad while also taking charge of Eleven Madison Park’s pop-up venues in Aspen and The Hamptons. “I got to ski a lot in Aspen and I just loved it, it’s true escapism for me. I could spend a week skiing by myself and love every second.”

Having seen Nomad rise to number three in The World’s 50 Best Bars, Collina jumped at the opportunity to return to London and help open Davies and Brook restaurant at Claridge’s.

“What I try to do when opening somewhere new and different is to bring our character and put a stamp on things, but then over time I think it’s important to be influenced by the people around you and the ones you work with.”

Collina then rejoined Nomad for the launch of its London edition in 2020, which had its December opening date pushed back by the pandemic. “Lockdown set us back, which was heartbreaking and because it’s such a seasonal menu we’ve had to start over for the spring. But I used it as an opportunity for my new team to work together over Zoom to come up with new ideas.

“For me, putting a bar team together is like a sports team. You need a balance of different skills but also a spread of diversity across ethnicities and gender to make it tick well. You also don’t want people who just agree because then nothing will be created.”

The Rome-born ’tender received around 1,800 CVs for 20 positions at Nomad’s London team and roughly 800 of them were Italian. “I couldn’t believe how many Italians there are in London so I’m really enjoying connecting with my roots over here and I’m super-excited because I’m going to be behind the bar doing three shifts a week. I love hands-on training and getting into the trenches because it’s important to feel like a part of the system.

“One of my favourite parts of my job is seeing the progression of people in the bar. It’s incredibly rewarding for me and I get a lot of purpose from my work. I get up in the morning with the idea of making Nomad better or the people I’m working with better. That’s why for me mental health is very important, particularly in times like these, so I’m completely open with my team and I welcome absolutely any conversations.”