METAXA – MORE THAN A BRANDY

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Hailing from Greece, this is truly a unique spirit – a blend of brandy and wine – produced from three varietes of grapes, Savatino, Sultanina and Black Corinth. These are blended with aged muscat wines from Samos and Lemnos. Then its aged for a minimum of 3 years before being flavored with a secret mix of herbs including rose leaves and distilled water. The mix is then allowed to marry for a least 6 months and is then chilled at -6C for 48 hrs and after that finally filtrered before bottled. The final product has a very complex and unique aromatic character that has aromas of pepper and roses, bay leaf, cinnamon and nutmeg, aromatic and spicy indeed and at the same time its very smooth.

Metaxa was invented by Spyros Metaxas in 1888, from the Attica region –  the province of Athens, and who wanted to make a drink that conqered the world and it has actually even survived the 2 world wars and was the first alcoholic drink consumed in space. Now its exported all over the world and is among the top 50 spirits brands in the world. So conquered the world his drink did indeed!

By just reading these taste descriptions before i tried it i could almost feel the spiciness and i wasn`t dissappointed. Its rich, smooth, warm, spicy and earthy with undertones of citrus and something i cannot put my finger on what it may be – but its very pleasant. I was also quite astonished to discover that some drinks brought out a hint of a sort of slight medical aftertaste while others didn`t. Its surely a very intriguing spirit and certainly this is more than a brandy, it sits somewhere between a brandy and a liqueur.

The one Metaxa i can find here i is the 5 star and as far as i understand from what i hear its quite different from the 7 star which everybody from the US used during the Metaxa TDN. The 5 star is a dark honey color, woody with a light fruit taste, aged in oak for 5 years. Its rich, smooth and mellow and as i described above. The 7 star is  even smoother as its aged longer and therefore i wonder if the 5 star isn`t a bit better suited for mixed cocktails. Its nice too on its own though with some ice.

There`s also the Private Reserve, which includes some very old distillations – roughly some 50 years old  and is said to have marvellous aromatic flavours of  cocoa, vanilla, wood, pepper and dried fruits. Fullbodied and meant to sip like you sip a fine cognac.

Further we have also the 12 year which contrary to the others do not contain any muscat wine and is more tasting like a whisky with a smoky flavour profile and with more burn. Dry, rich, but sharper than the rest, with perfumes balancing well with the fruit, wood and spices. There are also released a 15 year old “Grand Fine” and a few other exclusive anniversary bottlings such as Metaxa Centenary, Rhodes, Golden Reserve, Grand Olympian and Golden Age.

I myself wouldn`t mind laying my hands on a Metaxa Centenary Private Reserve which comes in a beautiful ceramic bottle shaped like a greek amphora and plaited with 18k gold.This bottle was launched for celebrating 100 years of success (1888-1988) and is now a unique collectors item. The content in this beautiful bottle is Metaxas oldest distillates.

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So the TDN was a always pretty crowded with all manner of cocktail related folks in the Mixoloseum chat room, and there were the SF crew too, all gathered in Erik`s house doing their best to wreck his homebar. The winning cocktail for this TDN will receive a Bitters Blueberry courtesy of Greg Boehm from Mud Puddle and it will also enter the Imbibe Ultimate Metaxa Cocktail Contest.

As always, there was an array of cocktails made and fun it was! (it always is) All the cocktail recipes you can find at twitter – Mixoloseum. Naturally Metaxa mixes very well with lemon but i also used lime in one of my recipes, it also goes well with honey.

Here are my drinks for the night:

ATTICA STAR

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1.5 oz Metaxa
0.5 oz Tequila blanco
0.75 oz fresh lime juice
1 oz honeymix (1:1honey and water)
1:1 Sweppes lemon and Fevertree bitter lemon to top.

Shake, strain into chilled cocktail glass.Top with 1:1 Fevertree bitter lemon and  Schweppes lemon.Garnish lime twist.

This drink really was tasty and i was surprised as to how well Metaxa mixes with certain (or many) ingredients, this drink i had only one of during the evening as i had so many other tasty drinks  but i could have drunk buckloads of it. One of my rare lucks i guess, and it seems to me like Metaxa goes well with my preferred type of drinks (the fruity-spicy ones)

METAXA SMASH

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1 oz Metaxa
1 oz Gin (Beefeater)
5-6 Thai sweet-basil leaves for the muddle and a bunch of sprigs for the garnish
0.5 oz honey-mix (1.1 honey and water)
Sprinkle of fresh lemon
Top with Ting or a grapefruit or lemon soda.

Muddle basil, lemonjuice and honeysyrup in glass, add ice, Metaxa and gin. Stir.
Top with Ting or a grapefruit or lemon soda. Garnish with a veritable forest of fresh Thai sweet-basil.

As the muddled basil leaves are still in the glass its no good idea to use a straw but dip your nose deep into the Thai basil garnish and let it attack your senses. This drink is really refreshing and it was way much tastier than i first expected, enjoy! (if you like basil)

SIESTA

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2.5 oz Metaxa
0.75 oz Aperol
Top with Prosecco, garnish lemon wedge. Rocks glass. Very simple and Metaxa works well with both Aperol and Prosecco, in fact i have found that it works well with a lot of things.

GOLDEN SUN

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2 oz Metaxa
Sprinkle of lemon
Absinthe rinse
Top with Sanpellegrino Limonata. Garnish lemon twist. Rocks glass.

Rinse the glass with absinthe and fill with cracked ice. Add Metaxa and a sprinkle of fresh lemon juice, stir. Top with some Sanpellegrino limonata or other lemon soda. Garnish with a lemon twist.

First i didn`t know what to mix this with but through all my experimenting during this Metaxa TDN i have found out one thing, and that is that it definetily mixes well with many ingredients as well as being very tasty neat. Its now a part of my drink mixing arsenal. Actually i wonder how come i haven´t tried it before? it was a pity i was a bit underage when i was in Greece.

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BEEFEATER – LONDON DRY GIN – AND SPONSORED TDN

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March 26..time for a sponsred TDN again! this time we were ponsored by Beefeater gin, which i think is nice as i have a special relationship with this gin as its the gin i grew up with. This gin also transports me to London in my memories from times when i have visited that city and then its really just perfectly fitting that it also is made in London.

BEEFEATER GIN

Beefeater is a London Dry gin which is a gin that is fresh, dry and light, distilled from 100% grain spirit. It ´s 47% ABV (94 proof) in the US and New Zealand, 37.1% in Australia, and a 40% (80 proof) elsewhere in the world (including the UK).

Beefeater contains 9 different botanicals –  juniper – which as we know is the basic essential for gin, seville orange peel – adding a clean citrus flavor as is the  sundried sicilian lemon peel, further – orris root for a floral aroma binding the botanicals together, corainder seeds – so fresh and spicy, angelica root with their dry woody spiciness, liquorice root – adding a woody sweetness paired with an underlying mellow spiciness, bitter almond, and finally angelica seeds for a floral edge.

Beefeater also uses use Russain coriander as opposed to Morrocan.The Russian variety has maller seeds and more intense flavour.

The founder of Beefeater gin was pharmacist and also tea merchant James Burrough who in 1876 distilled many brands of gin making Beefeater gin the Chelsea distillery´s flagship brand. Beefeater moved from its birthplace Chelsea distillery to Montford Place in 1958. Master distiller Desmond Payne replaced Brian Martin in 1995 and is the master distller of Beefeater gin today. Beefeater is the only globally known gin that is still made in London and has been produced since around 1820. It was aqcuired by Pernod Ricard in 2005.

I find that this gin has a very clean and crsip taste and i really enjoy it.

BEEFEATER TDN

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As expected this TDN was crowded and too many cocktails for me to count was submitted, i surely had my share, from a range of wonderful drinks all the way to Rick`s zombie-like drink “Romero`s Resurrection” which was the one that finally defeated me in the late night.

The best drink of the night will be voted for at the poll on the Mixoloseum blog and the winner will receive a case of fevertree soda. The Beefeater sponsored TDN was also sent live by webcam from Vessel in Seattle hosted by Paul Clarke and Stevi Deter with guests such as Robert Hess, Jamie Boudreau and others and the fine bartenders at Vessel did a great job mixing up our drinks.

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Also many thanks to Dan Warner from Beefeater who answered our many questions and told us about Beefeater gin. Among the many interesting things he told us was that early gins would definately have been similar to genever and a lot of them would have been really bad tasting. For a long time it was still called genever or “Hollands” and Old Tom was the predominant style for a long time. When Coffey invented his still lighter spirit was available and the London Dry style was born.

Gin wasn’t born in Holland – its father Geneva was.When Geneva arrived in England us English are too lazy to speak anybody elses language so we shorted the name to one sylable. However genever and gin are very different tasting spirits.

Only 6 people (!!) are working at the Beefeater gin distillery producing 2.4 million cases a year.

My cocktails for this evening were mostly a little bit of Ramos style fizzes because i like their freshness and i also love how egg whites mellows a drink and makes it smooth as silk..

The first cocktail here is inspired by the beautiful vanilla orchid.

VANILLA BEAN CASCADE

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1.5 oz Beefeater gin
0.75 oz vanilla syrup
1 oz fresh lime juice
1 egg white
1 vanilla bean, 2/3 split and seeds scraped out and added to shaker
3 dashes Bob`s vanilla bitters (or other bitters)
Fevertree bitter lemon to top
Garnish 2 vanilla beans

Split the vanilla bean and crape out the seeds and add to the shaker with all ingredients except the soda. Shake without ice long and hard to mix the egg white really well. Shake again with ice, strain and pour into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with the 2 vanilla beans.

This one i found very yummy,light and fresh and on the sour side.

BEEFEATER BLOOD

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1.5 oz fresh blood orange juice
1.5 oz Beefeater Gin
1 oz Bourbon
0.5 oz Campari
¼ oz Cointreau
Sprinkle of fresh lime

Top with fevertree bitter lemon and a splash hibiscus grenadine
Garnish blood orange slice and mint.

Shake the ingredients except the soda and grenadine. Strain or double strain per your preference into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with mint and a blood orange wedge.

This drink is just a variation of my Bourbon and Blood cocktail which was invented one day when i luckily found a whole bunch of nice italian blood oranges after not seeing any blood oranges for a long time thinking the season was over.

LEMONGRASS & HONEY FIZZ

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2 oz Beefeater gin
0.5  oz  sourmix (1 part lime, 1 part lemon, 1 part simple syrup)
1 egg white
1 small piece of lemongrass
0.75 oz honeymix (1 part honey, 1 part water, warmed up to become liquid, then  cooled)
soda water to top
lemongrass stick for garnish

Muddle the lemongrass piece with the sourmix and honey in a shaker, add the rest of ingredients except for the soda water.

Shake vigoriously without ice, then again with ice.  Strain into a chilled cocktail glass, top with soda water and garnish with a lemongrass stick.

Just as light and smooth as the vanilla bean fizz but the lemongrass gives a bit of a fresh spicy crispness here and the extra 0.5 oz gin is noticeable. yet i prefer the vanilla variety, its something with the more sourness of that one that i really like.

RANGOON ROSE

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1.5 oz Beefeater Gin
0.5 oz fresh lime juice
1 egg white
0.5 oz creme de cassis
0.5 oz campari
Top with Fevertree bitter lemon

Dry shake first all ingredients except the soda, then with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish lime twist.

A LITTLE GIN HISTORY

The name Gin is an anglicised version of the Dutch genever. Gin is made from at least 96% spirit and has no flavor.The flavouring for Gin comes from Botanicals; these vary from producer to producer but includes juniper and other botanicals such as coriander, lemon peel, cinnamon, nutmeg, orange peel, angelica and cardamom amongst many others.Typically fine gin contains between six and ten botanicals.

Back  in Holland in around 1550, prof of medecine Franciscus Sylvius de la Boe (or de Bouve) tried to create a cure for stomach illness using juniper berries, and concocted an infusion he called genever, after the French term genèvrier meaning juniper.

During the Thirty Years’ War dutch soldiers boosted their courage before the battles with it, and the taste for this “Dutch courage” spirit was picked up by english soldiers who brought it back home with them. In England small distillation took place developing to a greater scale. The quality of this early gin was often quite dubious but that improved when gin started to be distilled in London and Westminster by the members of the formation of King Charles I.

In 1689 King William III aka William of Orange, came to the English throne. He encouraged the distillation of English spirits and now anyone could disill by posting a notice in public and then simply wait for 10 days. Workers were sometimes given gin as part of their wages. Beer and ale which was more expensive soon was outsold by gin.

But the consumtion of bad spirits rised due to an excise license of £20 which was introduced in 1729 and two shillings per gallon duty was levied and the retailers now also demanded a license. At this time, 1730 over 7000 spirit shops operated in London and the poor people´s abuse of alcohol was a major problem and at sept 29 in1739, the Gin Act was introduced which made gin extremely expensive.The Gin Act lasted 6 years but finally this led to riots causing this law to be broken in 1742.

Now the distillers formed a new gin policy with reasonably high prices, excise duties and licensed retailers, and many companies now establieshed themselves, like Gordon`s, and gin became the high quality spirit that it is today.

Gin was widely used as a cocktail ingredient during the golden 1920s cocktail age. Old Tom was born in London but it fell out of fashion when the London Dry style arrived.

The Gin & Tonic was originally an anti malaria concoction in colonial India. Quinine was added to carbonated water to give Indian Tonic and mixed with Gin to make it more palatable.

GIN IN THE US

In the 1860s the Martini was born. At San Francisco’s Occidental Hotel, bartender Jerry Thomas mixed up a “Martinez” for a traveler bound for that town. Made with bitters, maraschino, vermouth, ice and Old Tom Gin. And adding 2 dashes of gum syrup to guests with a sweet tooth.

Americans during the prohibition produced something called ”bathtub gin” by recovering the ethyl alcohol by taking the poisons out of denatured alcohol.This was then flavored with juniper, diluted and finally bottled. This was a dangerous way to make it as there were several ways to do this and if it wasn`t done by someone knowing what they were doing, the results were even sometimes deadly.

In the US, repeal day came dec5 in 1933 and that is really a day to celebrate!

Read more on Beefeater Gin on their website!