When I wrote recently about liqueurs and the different rules governing how they’re made, I had a lot of people telling me how useful it was to see those guidelines spelled out. There’s a lot of confusion surrounding spirits and their differing rules, so I thought I’d have a go at putting down on paper the regulations for most of the major spirit categories. When we talked about this over a rum or two at b&t HQ, it seemed like a great idea, but then I started the research…
The problem I ran into right away was that every country seems to have their own set of regulations defining each type of spirit, which means to arrive at one definitive list of rules is nearly impossible. However, after a little research I’ve managed to compile some guidelines for each spirit category, and have written more straightforward interpretations for some of the confusing legal definitions that make up the ‘rules’. So if you’ve ever wondered what makes some gins ‘London Dry’ or have queried the difference between bourbon and scotch, here’s my attempt at unraveling some of those mysteries that make up the defining rules of spirit production. You might want to fix yourself a cocktail as this is one of the longer blogs I've written… and this is just part one!
Our very modern bar scene in 2009 seems to be spending a lot of time looking back. The classics are well and truly in fashion and there is a real movement towards reviving long lost ingredients, methods, recipes and styles. Well that suits me just fine as there are few things in this world that I like more than a well made Manhattan, Bronx, Ward 8 or Pegu Club. I say long let this trend continue... but let me just caveat that by saying let's not get stuck in the past.
The very best bartenders I know are all pretty well versed in classic cocktails; they have read Thomas, Craddock, Johnson and Duffy from cover to cover and can recite facts so obscure I wonder if they are made up half the time! But let's face it anyone can pick up a copy of an old cocktail book and with a bit of effort reproduce some damn fine drinks. One of the things that makes a good bartender great is their ability to draw inspiration from the past but to give drinks a distinctly modern twist.
Over the weekend I was flicking through Ted Haigh's excellent book 'Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails' and drooling over some drinks that I feel certain will become new favourites of mine. If you haven't done so yet, then I suggest that you go out and grab a copy as soon as you can, if ever there was a more timely release of a book to reflect a trend in the drinks industry I can't remember it! Mr Haigh has assembled a list of drinks that should never have fallen out of fashion and along with a lot of valuable info about their origins and some of the more obscure ingredients has bundled them into a neat package that is a real pleasure to peruse.