Lots of new alcohol products launch in the UK
every year, in fact sometimes it feels like I can hardly keep up with them all, but it’s rare that the person behind a new brand is an ex bartender, ex brand ambassador and an all round drinks guru. Now when someone like that launches a spirit you just have to sit up and pay attention. When the product he launches doesn’t fall into any existing category because it’s something so unique that no one has ever considered it before… well frankly that just never happens! Until now that is…
You see our good friend Alex Kammerling has just launched Kammerling’s Ginseng Spirit
. You might well ask at this point, ‘what’s a Ginseng Spirit?’ well frankly there’s nothing else on the market to compare it to. It’s unique. One of a kind. An original. We all know that just because it’s unique doesn’t necessarily make something good, but given Alex’s credentials I couldn’t help but be excited to have a taste of this golden liquid. I was lucky enough to sample it a few weeks back at a pre-launch event, but now that it’s finally available in the UK
it seems like the right time to talk about it.
I suppose I should start by introducing Alex, the founder, creator, marketer, salesman and ambassador behind this new spirit. Mr. Kammerling started working in bars 18 years ago, and is a well-known and respected character in the UK bar industry. After many years of crafting drinks and serving many thousands of cocktails to the unsuspecting public, Alex decided to turn to the other side of the drinks industry. Working as an Ambassador Alex gained great experience with Miller’s Gin and was involved in the development of Miller’s Westbourne Strength. He then moved on to represent Grey Goose where he gained a huge amount of expertise working on such a large global brand.
From talking to him though it seems like his time at Miller’s working on Westbourne Strength was the inspiring moment for him, and from that moment he has had it in his mind to develop his own spirit. As he says his inspiration for Kammerling’s Ginseng Spirit came from his two favourite categories, Gin and Bitters. Using production methods traditional to gin, but aiming for a flavour profile that would include the spicy and bitter notes more traditionally associated with potable bitters (Campari for example) Alex set about trying to create a recipe.
Not one to make his own life easy he started by researching barks, roots, flowers, fruits, herbs and spices that might work in his spirit, next he narrowed this list down to 100 before infusing them individually in neutral grain spirit in order to taste them. From these 100 infusions, Alex painstakingly narrowed it down once more, to just 45 ingredients including 4 different types of Ginseng. Alex has always been fascinated by the medicinal origins of spirits so it was no huge leap for him to start thinking about basing his spirit on Ginseng, and adding other herbs and spices many of which have been used for thousands of years in traditional medicines.
It has taken Alex almost 5 years to develop a product that he is happy with; after all if you’re going to stamp your name on every bottle you want it to be perfect! Finally though Kammerling’s Ginseng spirit is available in the UK
and the real hard work for him begins. I mean it would be one thing if he’d developed a gin or vodka; that would be pretty easy to sell in, but instead he has created something unique that will take a lot of explaining to get it seeded.
WHAT IS IT?
I guess it falls into a unique space, somewhere between Gin, Campari and Pimm’s, maybe with some lillet blanc notes and sweet vermouth thrown in for good measure. At 33% abv it’s light and easy to drink, but with the complexity of all those ingredients it has great depth of flavour. So is this a spirit or a modifier? The star of the show, or the supporting act? For me I think that Alex has come up with something unique that can be used in a myriad of different ways, and it is this versatility that fascinates me about this product.
On the nose Kammerling’s Ginseng Spirit is citrusy and fresh, with ripe fruit aromas as well as floral and spice notes coming through. The first taste is of honey sweetness with complex herbal layers opening up and developing into the bitter notes that you might associate with Campari or Fernet Branca, the finish is smooth and sweet with a pleasant lingering bitterness on the sides of the tongue. All in all it is an intriguing liquid that cries out to be played with.
WHAT DO I DO WITH IT?
The first thoughts for me were of a golden Negroni made using Kammerling’s, Lillet Blanc and Plymouth, with a lemon twist, and this worked brilliantly, but pretty soon my brain started working overtime about all the different ways it could be used. Would it work in a cup? A mojito? A sour perhaps? How would it work with dark spirits as well as light?
After a little experimenting (I finished a bottle in one evening trying different ideas out!) I have realised that Kammerling’s works in many styles of drinks and can be the main spirit or used simply as an ingredient to support a different base spirit. It tastes great over ice with a lemon twist or lengthened with a splash or two of soda. In other words this is one of those ingredients that you really should have to hand when you fancy playing around with new cocktails.
50ml bourbon (Four Roses Small Batch works well!)
20ml Kammerling’s Ginseng Spirit
1 dash Angostura Bitters
Stir all ingredients with plenty of cubed or cracked ice before straining into a chilled coupe and garnishing with a lemon twist. Make sure you give this one a good long stir to really open up all those flavours.
It occurred to me that it would work with fruit flavours as well as in more classic style drinks and while it made a great ‘ginseng sour’ I wondered if it wouldn’t add some complexity and depth to a sloe gin sour… it most certainly did! I can highly recommend using Sipsmith Sloe Gin if you canlay your hands on a bottle as it works perfectly in this drink. In fact I'd recommend it for any drink now that I think about it!
25ml Kammerling’s Ginseng Spirit
25ml Sloe Gin (Sipsmith if you can get it!)
15ml lime juice
10ml lemon juice
15ml egg white
Shake all ingredients with plenty of cubed ice and strain into a rocks glass or small goblet filled with cubed ice. Garnish with berries. This one tasted like my mothers’ home made hedgerow jam, hence the name!
Next I thought it would be interesting to make Kammerling’s the star of the show, and since when he first launched it he mentioned Pimm’s I thought tall and refreshing might be the way to go. The drink below could be modified to include fresh fruit in season or made by the pitcher and garnished with berries and citrus fruit too.
½ a lime cut into 4 pieces
1 inch of cucumber cut into quarters
45ml Kammerling’s Ginseng Spirit
6 mint leaves
Muddle the lime and cucumber in a sturdy glass before adding remaining ingredients. Add a few cubes of ice and stir up thoroughly before topping off with more ice and a splash of soda water. Garnish with a mint sprig.
Although Kammerling’s Ginseng Spirit all but defies catagorisation, its versatility along with its unique flavour should see it become a firm favourite of bartenders and cocktail enthusiasts everywhere in no time flat. I’m already looking forward to buying another bottle so that I can try to recreate the ginseng sidecar I made last time, but forgot to write down the recipe as well as seeing how it goes with tequila. My hat’s off to you Mr. Kammerling, you’ve produced an exceedingly fine spirit!