As we look down the barrel of a long English winter, with the nights drawing in and the days becoming shorter and shorter, home is calling for evenings spent cooking and on the sofa. What goes perfectly with both? Some good tipples…
Maybe you’ll have just finished Stoptober (in which case, jolly well done – now it’s time to treat yourself). Perhaps you’ll want to extend your dry spell (then read on, we have the perfect alcohol-free option for you). But we’re a boozy bunch here at The Bespoke Black Book so we’ve prepped a drinks list for you in the run-up to winter (so fear not, no hot wine or spiced cider is featured). Just good old-fashioned favourites from both old and new
brands. Featuring gins for every taste, Champagne, English wine, rosé (who says rosé is just for summer?! not us…), alcohol-free ideas and high-end West African tipples, to bring some sunshine back into your autumn.
Tipple 1: Hayman’s London Dry Gin
Clean, crisp, and classic; this is your timeless London Dry style gin that I know and love and crave. Fresh, bright, with a lively citrus finish, it’s not too floral or botanical, but perfectly balanced, and smooth – a touch of creaminess to it. I’d liken it to Tanqueray, but I’d be wrong to with Hayman’s heritage harking back to James Burrough, the 19th-century creator of Beefeater gin. Yes, the Hayman family is gin royalty, and whilst this bottle might not stand out among its other classic-style London Dry contemporaries, isn’t that exactly what you want from a classic London Dry? I’ll be buying another bottle once it’s run dry…
Serving suggestion: Ice and a (lemon) slice, 40-to-60 gin-to-Indian-tonic, with lots of ice to melt into it. There’s nothing better…
Tipple 2: Amarula African Gin
Crafted from the marula fruit – sweet and tart, an elephant’s favourite, hence the label and the fact that £1 of every litre sold is donated to the Amarula trust towards safeguarding the African elephant – Amarula also includes the more traditional botanicals of juniper berries and orange peel. It’s complex to say the least, hella botanical and extremely quaffable. If you’re looking for a gin to blow your senses and take you away from the London dry classic, then Amarula is the one.
It really changes up the first evening G&T for a creature of habit stuck in their traditional ways (like me). I automatically added my usual slice of lemon, which is not its partner. Lime works much better, and grapefruit is better than lime. Classically Amarula is a Baileys-type cream liquor, the marula bringing out the taste of vanilla and caramel. That’s not the case in the gin. Bright, zingy, complex this is a refreshing gin to enliven the taste buds for a different kind of G&T.
Serving suggestion: Indian tonic over ice, with grapefruit.
Tipple 3: Bathtub Gin | Persian Lime and Orange Blossom
Imagine a pirate designed the bottle – corked and wrapped in brown paper with string and black wax – but instead of lighter fluid rum it contained a gently flavoured with Persian lime and orange blossom – that’s Bathtub Gin’s craft spirit, great as a gift thanks to its fun branding. And now I’ve clocked it, I see it everywhere in bars and pubs. A Bathtub Gin sees its ingredients infused in the spirit, rather than added through distillation. Bathtub Gins start life as a London Dry then infused with botanicals. It has a gold hue to it, fresh and bold in taste, zesty and floral, as to be expected with citrus peel and blossom.
Serving suggestion: A breakfast treat Dill Sour, to go with smoked salmon and scrambled eggs. Mix 50ml of Bathtub Gin with 20ml of lemon and 15ml agave, 1tsp fresh dill, 1 egg white, shake hard and strain over a glass with ice. Now that’s a good start to a weekend…
Tipple 4: Minuty M Rosé
A Côte de Provence rosé, pale in colour, light in taste, very dry. Is it the colour, for a non habitual rosé drinker, or is it giving red fruits? Yes – definitely raspberry. But it’s clean and crisp enough, bringing up grapefruit notes too. You can keep your celebrity Whispering Angel and Miraval – this one has got all you want and need from a Provence rosé for day time drinking. Now I know rose is the summer tipple of choice for, well, pretty much everyone but I’m here to tell you it’s got a place in the cooler months too. It’s fantastic for lunch time, Asian food, oysters – need I say more? Minuty describes its personality as ‘straightforward, straightforward, mineral and energising’, which is all I’m looking for in my wine and in life.
Serving suggestion: Huge wine glass, one piece of ice, a slosh of M Rosé, alongside half a dozen oysters. Heaven…
Tipple 5: Terlingham Vineyard 2022 Bacchus
A Kent white wine that’s fresh on the palate, with, primarily, notes of elderflower. Crunchy peach on the palate with a long orchard finish is how the estate describes the 2022 Bacchus; I say it has a crisp minerality and nice acidity. I might be biased as an East Kent local, but home-grown whites really don’t get much better.
Serving suggestion: Share a bottle (with perhaps just one other person) alongside a board of soft cheeses, like goats’ and brie.
Tipple 6: Pol Roger Brut Reserve
Who wants to mess around when it comes to Champagne? I like it classic and rich, complex on the tongue with fine bubbles. And this is a rich one… I don’t have much in common with Churchill but they say it was his favourite Champagne (drinking two bottles a day) and had a racehorse named after the Champagne house. The gift box of the Reserve Brut pays homage to Churchill, based on one of his paintings ‘The Goldfish Pool at Chartwell’ It’s vying for the top spot in my rankings, too; elegant, incredibly thirst quenching and good for any and every occasion. And, at just south of £50, it’s a fine price for top-notch fizz.
Serving suggestion: Chill to 8°C and pour into a flute or coupe. Done
Tipple 7: Angels Dare pre-canned crafted cocktails
You have to like your cocktails sweet, real sweet, to be an Angels Dare-r. Jam-like in richness and sugar, these are designed for sweet-toothers who don’t want to mix their own cocktail. Decadent in taste, the design of the 250ml cans matches the punch each can packs, with Alice in Wonderland-style graphics (a parrot head on a human body, say). How about a Cheeky Wee Kiss, with dry gin, sweet rhubarb, strawberry and a dash of cranberry. At 10% abv it’s less than wine (less calories too with around 150 a can) but more than beer, though I did get a big buzz after a few sips. ‘Lose your halo’ is its tagline, but be careful not to lose your head…
Serving suggestion: Low tumbler, tonnes of ice, pour over and wait for ice to dilute a touch (as you would a negroni)
Tipple 8: Dutch Barn Orchard Vodka
Dutch Barn is handcrafted in North Yorkshire from British apples (and a few potatoes) for a crisp, fresh remarkably smooth spirit. ‘No burn. Bo bite. No bitterness’ is the brand’s aim, delivering a crystal clear finish, something Vodka brands usually like to prove with a clear glass bottle. But Dutch Barn Orchard stands out with its brown glass bottle, not just protecting the spirit better from light, but made from 60% recycled content. The brand has Pending B Corp status, with 100% of electricity on-site renewable and 97% of the water used in cooling processes recycled. Delicious and guilt-free… The website offers up some fantastic cocktail recipes, of which a Martini, of course, is the best to test a vodka with…
Serving suggestion: A Calvados rinsed glass, with 60ml of Dutch Barn Vodka that’s been stirred with ice (25 seconds), served with a slice of apple (without the option to dehydrate the slice, as suggested).
Tipple 9: CleanCo Whiskey non-alcoholic
Clean W is CleanCo’s non-alcoholic take on Bourbon Whisky, with characteristic notes of oak and sweet vanilla, a hint of spice, apple and figs. The company offers a positive approach to no and low-alcohol tipples, for those who want to drink less or cut it out. It might sound like a silly drinks benchmark, but the design of the bottles is 10/10, looking exactly like that of a top-end whiskey, which makes reaching for it (over an alcoholic bottle) a helluva lot more appealing. I know, I said it would seem silly…
Low calorie – at 17/50ml serving, with 120 cals the average for a whiskey – as well as no alcohol makes it doubly feel-good, minus the addictive ‘feel-good’ brain buzz. No sugar, no sweeteners, no hangover. A final punt for you to try it; I’ve quickly ordered the gin and tequila, happy as I am with Clean W. It’s pretty slick but lacks the bite of a good whiskey, so I’d say the W is best drunk mixed as a cocktail – perfect for people who like the ritual of making a cocktail without the negative impacts.
Serving suggestion: Whisky Sour, my all-time favourite cocktail. Lowball glass, ice, 50ml Clean W, 35ml lemon juice, half egg white, lemon rind to spray its oils, cherry to serve.
Tipple 10: Aphro Palm Spirits | The Nubi | The Moor
Palm spirit is made from the sap of palm trees and has been distilled for centuries in West Africa, previously known as Akpeteshie in Ghana where the triply distilled, organic Aphro palm spirit is from. Recently launched in the UK it’s available in two flavours: The Nubi has hints of flamed pineapple, passion fruit and honey, while The Moor is a spiced ginger mix with Hwentia pepper. Aphro is priced at £39.99, and, if you’re new to palm spirit, is a must for those looking for a new and exciting taste experience.
Serving suggestions: Tomato, cola and apple are the perfect company for The Moor palm spirit liquor. Apple, lemonade or coconut work well with The Nubi