FINE Drinking – A Bar, Cocktail & Lifestyle Magazine Hailing from Athens!

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This is like a candy-bag for spirited grown ups!

Do you want to know about FINE drinking and lifestyles? there´s a new bar magazine coming out of Athens, it´s called Fine Drinking and it takes you on a very interesting journey in the spirited world…

When I got these magazines I was pleasantly surprised….the mag is like a book! it´s really thick and the quality is superb both in the design, layout and content. The layout I think very well reflects the playful style of where it comes from….it´s very much “Baba au Rum“! It`s a quarterly printed edition about cocktail and bar culture as well as travelling. There´s also other reviews made of this fine magazine, for example on “Adventures of the Barstalker” which is a very fun and informative blog to read!

Fine Drinking is also a coffee table publication with high-end aestetics and timeless texts in both english and greek, a magazine that reserach and present an exciting international bar and drinking industry and culture and the type of publication you will want to save and keep. The brain behind it is Thanos Prunarus, a bartender since 18 years and the owner of the famous Baba au Rum bar in Athens and author of the bar and cocktail book “handcrafted”.

If you have been to Baba au Rum you will feel very familiar with the style of this magazine since it has the “Baba” look and feel to it despite the many different contributors from various places, because some places just happens to have that special feel about them that makes you feel at home right away and Baba au Rum is one of those places, it got some “magic” to it…and that is transformed also into this magazine in some way…maybe it´s the playful desgin…?

Or maybe because it`s informative, fun and entertaing as well as very varied because the topics talks about a lot of different things like the bar scenes in various places (like Oslo for example in an article writtten by Thanos Prunarus and Alexandra Barstalker) to “The mystery of cocktail bitters”and how to make Baba au Rum`s own Bergamot bitters (by Thanos) to “The Peruvain bark that conquered Europe” (by Francois Monti) and “From the West Indies to the World” (by Nikos Arvanitis) just to name a very few….

I also feel very honored to see my own article about the colorful history of the tiki drink Chief Lapu Lapu in issue no 2, as well as getting my contribution the “Mariner Daiquiri” for the Baba au Rum`s International Daiquiri Challenge 2016 among the ten finalists, published in issue no 1.

So far there`s two issues published and you can find them in various places and bars and events in Europe – for example even the central train station here in Stockholm has it! but if you can`t find it you can write to fine@babaaurum.com and subscribe.

I myself not going to miss any issues of it! I also believe the Fine Drinking can become a collectors item with time….because it´s very original and beautiful! something to kick back with on the sofa with a daiquiri in hand…or bring along on a trip maybe? and it sure does has it place on your coffee table or bar!

Because FINE Drinking is….

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Thick….

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Beautiful….and classy

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Interesting….

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Rummy….

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Playful!

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Inspirational….

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Tikified….

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Historical…and fascinating….

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Educational…

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Classic!

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Abstract….

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Cocktails….

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And more cocktails!!

Subscribe – fine@babaaurum.com

This is Magic…Skeldon 1973

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The rum genie in a bottle!

And finally….finally the holy grail (or one of the grails) and wet dream of rum landed in my hands…..the Skeldon. The true genie in a bottle that can make magic is not a genie….it´s a rum!

The 1973 Skeldon, is a 32 year old rum from Guyana (abv 60.5%) by the independent bottler Velier and which over the years has earned a cult status among rum connaisseurs and collectors. Unavailable nowadays as far as I know unless you are lucky to score a sample somewhere or even a big bottle maybe, if your pocket is as deep as this rum…..

On the back of the label it says “aged 32 years in tropical weather” “Produced 544 bottles”. The angels share (the contents in the barrel evaporating over time) which concentrates the flavors, color and viscosity, must be something like 75-80%.

It´s a very long time I have wanted to try the Skeldon 73 and 78 (years) and finally my turn has come to be able to try the 1973 expression. I have a firm belief that the good rums sooner or later eventually comes to those who truly appreciates them……This little sample is to me as precious a treasure as a treasure box in all it`s glory…and this might be Luca´s very best rum ever. My mind goes to the best I know of and have tried of the rums from Velier, the UF30E – which I find incredible, will this one be as good or better or can they even compare? I`m sure not….they gotta be very different rums.

I take a look at the little sample bottle…the rum in there has a dark brownish color with hues of deep red…yes red, a pronounced dark deep red…and when I take pics of it in the glass it shows even purple hues…like a dark red purplish tinted wine…amazing.

The history of this rum goes back to the Skeldon sugar plantation which was established between 1802 – 1834 by William Ross on the far east part of Guyana, or more exactly, on the west bank of the Corentyne river, near the border of Suriname. From what I read on the pictures of the labels both the 73 and 78 was distilled in a coffey still in 1973 and bottled in 2005, so makes 32 long tropical years – but exactly where it was distilled I´m not sure…..since the Skeldon facility closed down in 1960. But during the last decade stills have been moved from one distillery to another and most likely the Skeldon still and it`s marques were moved to Uitvlught.

Ah… some of the mysteries of the old Guyana sugar plantations and their stills…will we ever know? I think not…and maybe that’s the best because when the magic is gone it´s gone…so let it remain…

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And in true “Gargano manner”, Luca Gargano found the last barrels of it…(4 barrels!) –  just like he found all those forgotten Caroni barrels in a warehouse at the defunct distillery on Trinidad …. and the 1980 Damoiseau…which was considered to not be “any good” since it contained a  bit of molasses….(or it was rejected by the AOC) but Luca sensing a hidden gem bought almost the entire stock and and in 2002 released it at cask strength and that my friends was the beginning of the Velier era. Damosieu held back some of that rum which they released later at the same strength, probably taking notice Luca was on to something.

Luca is like the ultimate “rum finder” in the rum world…it seems that he just knows where the precious stuff is….and he transforms them into true gems of pure rums, all tropically aged and very unique, every expression is a one of a kind. When these rums are gone it`s an era that will be over.

That said, luckily for us, there`s also new rums in the making, for example the very interesting and unique Clairin rums from Haiti issued by Velier and the fabulous pure single rums from Habitation Velier which is a collaboration between Luca Gargano and the best producers of pot still rums. Also the Foursquare distillery has come out with some remarkable rums in collaboration with Velier like the single blend “Foursquare 2006” (a blend of pot still rum and twin column Coffey still rum from one distillery) – which sold out within just a few hours after it´s release….yeah….to some sort of collective chock among serious rum enthusiasts making it´s ripples through social media, it was just gone – and nope this girl didn`t score a bottle…but I scored a sample.

But back to the legendary old Skeldon…

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So in an attempt to describe the taste notes of this rum from my notes made on an envelope as they came paired with the notes I got when I re-tasted it a few days later:

Nose – first hint – I first got something medical in my nose which gave way to liqorice…followed by musky dark prunes and black fruits, burnt molasses, leather, cocoa and tar…then mature tropical fruits, hint of banana peel, old wood, whiffs of caramel and slight hints of dark dark coffee…it´s a “dark” rum and I`m not talking about the color now but dark fruits and dark “stuff” and the nose is very very deep…

Taste – Hands down unbelievable, an explosion of flavors going out in all directions, but it`s balanced, complex and multi layered, so several tastings is needed. There´s charred wood, mashed tropical fruits, prunes and dark plums…liqorice, tobacco, tar and leather, black cherries…absolutely incredible and so deep and rich and full! It has kick but no burn…there is nothing that is unpleasant, nothing at all, it´s like a fine orchestra handling even the wildest and heaviest notes in full balance with both elegance, attitude and originality, it´s that exquisite.

It´s a heavy rum and strong, but the high proof is not difficult to handle.

Finsh – One thing surprised me, the long finish! it´s epic….!!! After I took my first small sips I decided to check the clock and see how long the finish stayed. After 30 minutes I said to myself, ok, this is long….and I`m impressed….but my dinner was ready so I decided to cut it and have my meal. I could always take the time again at the next session. After the meal and a lot of water – hints of the aftertaste was STILL there! incredible! and that has never happened to me before.

I also decided to do a glass-smell-test, by leaving the tasting glass unwashed and see for how long the smell of the rum stayed in it…something only a geek would do…well, it`s been three days and the smell or shall we say fragrance? is still there but today all of a sudden, I detect more buttery notes of caramel…

What a rum! it shows how a really excellent rum can be…and what the potential is…between two rums there can not only be “another world” it can truly be a whole other universe! in my opinion, this kind of rum can rival or equal anything of the best of anything in the spirits world. And the best thing is, there is nothing added to it, it`s just pure rum!

And last I want to thank the opportunity to officially thank my friend Lance for making it possible for me to try this wonder of a rum and also providing the pics of the big bottle and the pic of the back of the label. I want to add that he has what to me is the very best of all rum blogs, the “Lone Caner” containing an incredible amount of excellent reviews.

Another excellent source which is the most complete and in-detail writing on the history of the rums, sugar plantations and stills of Guyana where I have found lots of valuable information is the Barrel Aged Mind.

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Lady Drink 20th Anniversary and Cocktail Competition 2016

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“The first Lady Drink competition took place in 1996 in Perugia. It is still a unique competition as in any other countries, until nowadays, there isn`t an event like this”  – These are the words of the founder of the event, Danilo Bellucci. In the past 20 years he has been taking care of the organization and the selection of the competitors.

In the past years Lady Drink aimed to reward the excellences in the bartending world. More and more often in Cocktail bars, we find numerous barladies and professionals constantly increasing along with creativity. That’s why every year a bigger and bigger number of bar ladies not only decide to dedicate their passion to study and improve themselves but send their recipes to the Lady Drink competition who is meeting a rising challenge in selecting what they believe are the most innovative ones.

The Lady Drink is the most important European competition for Bar Ladies and celebrated it´s 20th year Anniversary this year at the competition at Excelsior Palace Hotel in Rapallo, Italy on oct 17.

Rapallo is a charming little town near Portofino on the north-west coast of Italy. The Excelsior Palace Hotel offers some of the best views you can imagine…you have the whole sea right in front of your balcony!

Before the competition started we had a half day off and went on a tour to Portofino and had coffee at a little cafè in the harbour right at the water´s edge and all the boats, and we took a steep walk up to the church on top to see all the stunning views of the sea and the cliffs from two sides and to do some souvenir shopping on the way. The Portofino area is just stunning with amazing views around every corner you turn and I can really recommend a trip there.

Back at the hotel, it was time for lunch and then getting ready for the competition which also had masterclasses by the sponsoring brands. In the competition were 40 contestants that had 7 minutes each to create 3 each of their cocktails…which then was presented to us at the judging table to evaluate until there were only two contestants left.

It was so fun to see so much creativity and to try their cocktails from which only one could be the winner…it`s not easy to beat 39 others and there were more than one great cocktail in the bunch! …so not so easy to judge either. There´s many aspects to look at and think about and at the same time you cannot be too slow because the cocktails keep coming!

I saw so many creative presentations but the taste and the overall impression also has to live up to the beautiful presentation…and I think the winner lived up to all aspects of a great tasty cocktail without beeing too sweet or too anything! it was just perfect balance and innovative beautiful garnish fit for the cocktail and the theme.

L’ American è Don Raffaè

Here`s the winning cocktail created by Bello Ilaria (Bar Talea di Tor Vaianica (RM)

The text on the note in Italian is the quote from a song by De André, that says “you like Campari or want the coffee”? They are 2 of the ingredients of the drink and the title of the song la Don Raffaè. The quote on the note makes the whole drink theme with how it tasted even better! just excellent! and very creative!

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L’ American è Don Raffaè

2cl Red Vermouth Carlo Alberto

2cl bitter Campari

1cl China Martini

1,5cl Patron XO Caffè

O,5 Bitter Cioccolato (Bittermen`s Xocolatl Mole)

Congratualtions to the winner! and cheers to all the contestants! Here`s a little picture parade of the contest, the hotel and beautiful Portofino:

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The view from the terrace at the beautiful Excelsior Palace Hotel where the contest was held.

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This hotel was built in 1901.

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The views….

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From my balcony…

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The Lady Drink Competition:

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Stage is ready for the contestants…

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And so are we…(me on the right and on the left, Laura Marnich (Zuma bar, Dubai) the third judge, Elizaveta Evdokimova (Moscow) is unf missing in this picture)

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Getting ready to work…

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And it`s on!

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And the drinks start coming in, so much creativity!

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So many beautiful drinks!

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Speaker and co-organizer of the contest, Gianni Merenda and one of the ladies preparing her three cocktails.

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And in the end…the two finalists….out of 40 cocktails, where the L’ American è Don Raffaè won…

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The winner, Bello Ilaria with the founder of the event (on the right) Danilo Bellucci.

Portofino

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The harbour in Portofino

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They say the emerald waters in this area comers from the deep cliffs underwater creating layers of light…

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This is so mediterranian….

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Portofino seen from the church on top.

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Wild cliffs and sea on the other side.

And last…yet another view from the hotel in Rapallo, sunrise on the last day and time to leave this beautiful place. Thank you Lady Drink and Italy for having me! hope to come back.

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Tiki Drinks with Martin Miller`s Gin

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It was a very long time ago I wrote about gin even though i`ve used it here and there in my tiki cocktails but it`s rare, so it´s time for some tiki libations again that contains gin….and the gin I pick for this post is Martin Miller`s.

When i first tasted Martin Miller´s gin years ago I found it had a special flavor and I really like it, it has a smooth and a bit earthy-bitter juniper flavour paired with an overall pleasant spicinress and slightly bright citrus and herbal flavours in between.

This is the gin that uses pure soft glacier water from Iceland because this water is said to be cleaner, softer and full of life force. I find that pretty amazing that they actually ship the gin all the way to Iceland! There its blended with more neutral spirit and glacier water, then its shipped away again. There´s no doubt that this is very soft clean water.

As for steeping the herbs and spices the old traditional methods are used where the botanicals are steeped overnight in spirit and hot water and this gentle maceration is what is needed to create a premium gin.The dried citrus peels are also separately distilled in order to achieve a brighter citrus flavour.

The dried bitter seville orange rind is the most important botanical after juniper in gin making and personally I love the bright seville orange flavour – it has such a refreshing aromatic aroma.In Martin Miller`s gin lemon and lime rinds are also used.

These are the botanicals used as far as i know, surely there are some secrets too…

Juniper, seville orange, lime, lemon, coriander, angelica, liqorice root, cassia bark and to bind it all together and impart a floral aromatic flavour – Florentine iris.

The alcohol must be re-distilled and made from grains of the highest quality, there´s a lot of herbs, spices, roots and citrus peels involved which are picked from all over the globe and individually treated. The distillation is a whole process of its own. Martin Miller`s gin is distilled by a single pot still (as opposed to most gin`s using three pots) using only the heart of the distillate.This single pot still is called Angela and was made in 1904.

What I`m using here is Martin Miller`s traditional gin (40%) and the Westbourne Strength (45.2%) I like their freshness and that`s also why  it´s one of my favorite gins, goes well in tiki drinks together with other rums and mixers.

As for gin in tiki drinks in general I think it can make really tasty tiki drinks and one of the tastiest I`ve had is the “Outcast of the islands“, a refreshing ice cone adorned libation which you can find at Jeff Berry`s Latitude 29, one of the best tiki bars on this planet.

Saturn

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0.5 oz fresh lemon juice
0.5 oz passionfruit syrup
0.25 oz falernum
0.25 oz orgeat
1 1/4 oz Martin Miller`s gin
Float Rational Spirits 141 Cuban or other good floating rum!

Put it all in a blender and blend until smooth with 8 oz crushed ice, pour unstrained into a suitable glass and fill up with more crushed ice if needed (originally it was a pilsner or other tall glass but I used a snifter….bec I love them! This is a take on the Saturn found in Jeff Berry`s Total Tiki App, the original drink was  made by J “Popo” Galsini in 1967 and awarded Popo at that year`s IBA World Cocktail Championship in Majorca.

Pololu Nui

Pololu Nui – a little potent mix of Martin Miller`s Westbourne Strength Gin, Jamaican and overproof rums, fresh pineapple, Creme de Cacao, Coco Real and Curacao… spiced up with a heap of fragrant ground cinnamon….served in Jeff Berry`s Latitude 29 Coco mug! And while Ku from the Floating Rum Shack carrying a pineapple on his head is laughing i`m drinking!

The original Pololu was made by Dr Bamboo and was a take on the good ole Painkiller…The name Pololu Nui means “the big Pololu” in this case “big in proof” with Martin Miller`s Westbourne strength gin and the overproof rum float combo.

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2 oz Martin Miller`s Westbourne Strength Gin
1 oz Appleton Extra Jamaican rum
2 oz fresh pineapple juice
0.5 oz Ferrand Dry Curacao
0.5 oz Coco Real Cream of Coconut or Lopez
1 oz fresh lime juice
Hamilton 151 rum to float

Shake everything except cinnamon with ice and strain into a glass or tiki mug.
Add a generous float Hamilton 151 on top and dust with a heap of cinnamon powder and garnish with something tropical.

I hope you like these drinks as much as I did!

Orgeat and Grenadine from Almèns syrups

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Hailing from Sweden, the syrups by Gustav Almèn have now seen the light! the first two out is a orgeat and a grenadine and I can assure you these are very tasty and well made with all natural ingredients and no artifical things added.

Gustav started to make homemade syrups for drinks that they served in the bar that he worked it at the time, Papa Gede`s in Sydney. A bar which on their website says – Papa Gede’s bar is infused with the spirit of witch-doctor apothecary, home-made herbal elixirs, plenty of classic & tiki cocktails, a smorgasbord of absinthes traditionally served, great wine, funk, soul, reggae & rituals of relaxation.

Sounds like a quite ecclectic and creative environment to work at! And while working there Gustav made many different flavors like orgeat, grenadine, ginger & sugarcane, falernum…

One day a friend said to him that he should start selling syrups and the more he thought about it the more he realized that there were no companies in Sweden selling cocktail syrups. So during the last 6 months in Australia he started to experiment even more with different flavors and studied different kinds of sugar syrups.

Just in time when he was back in Sweden he felt that his syrups finally were as good as he wanted them to be and so it was then he decided to start his company – Alméns Syrups. His goal is to sell cocktail syrups to bars in Stockholm.

I have tried the homemade orgeat (which is made with real almonds) and grenadine and they are both very tasty! the only thing I could think of that would benefit by a change is the bottle desgn, it`s beautiful bottles, tall and elegant but not very practical in a bar 🙂

But the syrups are not yet out for sale so a few changes will most likely be made before the final product is out on the market.

Here are two drinks I have made, one with the orgeat infused with Kombu seaweed and one with grenadine.

Fire and Brimstone!

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1 oz/30 ml  aged Cuban style rum ( I used Rational Spirits 141 Cuban rum)
1 oz/30 ml Mezcal (I used Del Maguey Crema de Mezcal)
2 oz/60 ml fresh pineapple juice
0.5 oz/15 ml Almèns grenadine
0.75 oz/22.5 ml fresh lime juice
Hibiscus powder to rim the glass and top the ice
Crushed ice

Rim half a snifter with hibiscus powder and half fill with crushed ice. Shake all ingredients with ice and strain into the snifter, add more crushed ice to fill and dust some hibiscus powder on top, garnish with a lime wedge.

Kombu Sour

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0.75 oz fresh lime juice
0.5 oz kombu seaweed infused Almèns orgeat
1 oz aged Cuban style rum ( I used Rational Spirits 141 Cuban rum)
1 oz Mezcal ( I used Del Magey Vida)
1.5 oz fresh grapefruit juice (yellow)
1 small piece of kombu, lime wheel for garnish
Small pinch hibiscus powder

Shake all ingredients with ice and strain into a cocktail coupe with a cracked ice chunk.Garnish with kombu, limewheel and a pinch of hibiscus powder on top.

Infusing the orgeat – Add orgeat to a small pan ( I added a half cup, about 1.25 dl) or pot and add a piece of kombu seaweed (about 2 inches, 5cm long) you can brake it in two if you want and slightly heat up the mix, Then take off heat and leave to sit for a couple hours or overnight, taste to see until you find the flavor nice. It should add a bit of a sea-salty flavor to the orgeat.

I really like these syrups and have nothing more to say than I think it would be better with smaller more practical bottles 🙂 apart from that the syrups are very good, tastes wonderful!

When they are out for purchase I know I`ll buy them!