April: Monkey Shoulder Chocolate Trail Challenge

In January, some of our members came along with us to a preview of some of the events that Monkey Shoulder had planned for the year in conjunction with Anonymous Artists. During the evening we tasted a number of variants of a cocktail: The Malt Jockey (recipe below). The variations lay with the type of chocolate bitters used. And, after a vote, the favourite of the tested recipes was barrelled, to be unveiled at a future event. The time to try the aged Malt Jockey came in early April, at a temporary installation in Soho which popped up for the Easter Weekend…   Malt Jockey Ingredients 40ml Monkey Shoulder 30ml sweet vermouth 10ml maraschino liqueur 2 dashes chocolate bitters Method Stir and strain, garnish with an Orange Twist. The Monkey Shoulder Chocolate Trail was the best incarnation of an Easter egg hunt EVER. Small wooden eggs were hidden in the foliage, which, once found, could be traded at the bar for a cocktail, designed by the guys from London Cocktail Club. Each drink was paired with a different chocolate from the fantastic Nico B which complemented the cocktail wonderfully. For more info, and recipes from the trail head over to my piece on Gin Monkey. Running for just four days, LCS were incredibly lucky to be given exclusive access to this trail of wonderfulness on the Saturday evening. With brand ambassador Dean Callan on hand to talk us through the whisky, and Olivier Ward from Anonymous Artists to talk us through the various cocktails, we were given a whistle stop tour of the product, its production method, and where it got its name from, all whilst sipping on whisky and cocktails – fab!   Then the 12 members lucky enough to have gained a place at the event split into pairs and were set the challenge of coming up with their own cocktail and chocolate pairing. With a huge number of potential ingredients on offer, from the foliage on the walls, to the fresh fruit and various bottled liqueurs, the challenge for most of our members was to narrow these down to just a few key flavours. With some assistance from Dean, Olivier, myself and the lovely bartender working that evening, the members played around with the ingredients and tweaked their recipes before presenting them to us for judging – not an easy task at all.   Surprisingly varied...
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Distillation at Sipsmith

We take the opportunity to get a behind the scenes look at the distillery to find out exactly how Sipsmith make their wonderful spirits: Due to restrictions on their license Sipsmith has to commission a base spirit that they then distil. The spirit is distilled once to produce their vodka, and then some of the product is then re-distilled too make their gin, before cleaning the still and starting again. The spirit is poured into the belly of Prudence (their beautiful copper still), which acts much like a kettle. She holds 300 litres of liquid, which produces no more than 250 bottles of each spirit in each distillation run (when these guys say small batch they aren’t joking!). As the liquid is heated vapours begin to rise up through a pipe known as a swan’s neck (as Prudence is a tight fit the neck grazes the ceiling!). It is a beautifully shaped piece of kit, so much so that Sipsmith use the shape in their motif. Away from the heat of the belly of the still the vapours begin to condense and fall down another pipe into a cooling chamber where they become liquid again. The copper wall of this chamber absorbs the liquid’s soft fatty acids, a process which Sam attributes to giving the spirit it’s character. After being held for a short time to ensure as many of the fatty acids are absorbed as possible, the liquid is heated to evaporate once more, before passing through a condenser and becoming liquid again. It then sits in the spirit safe (a fairly traditional feature in distilling) where it is ‘cut’. This involves removing the initial product (the head) and the end of the product (the tail) which are of poor quality. The distillate from the middle of the process is retained (the heart) and is pure enough that it doesn’t need filtered. 40% of the heart is kept, diluted and bottled – their vodka – and the remaining 60% goes on to make the gin. Usually the heads and the tails are recycled and fed back into the belly of the still for re-distillation, however Sipsmith believe that this would compromise the quality of their spirit and discard them (Sam told us there are plans afoot to use this waste as fuel for a company car: a vod-car – genius!). The 10 botanicals used in Sipsmith gin are:...
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