A Scottish Rye Whisky?

So here’s a curiosity: a Scottish rye whisky. Two in fact, made by the Arbikie Distillery in the Highlands.

Their Scottish Rye Whisky is made according to The Scotch Whisky Regulations 2009; the other is made in the American style.

In recent years, I have found my tastes drifting away from scotch and towards ryes and bourbons. So I find this a compelling idea. I must find a tasting as a matter of urgency.

You can buy directly from the distillery, I believe. And all profits from this first issue go to the Euan Macdonald Foundation for Motor Neurone Disease. So you can drink and do a good thing at the same time.

Bacardi Buys Patron

In a not-entirely-surprising turn of events, Bacardi has upped its 30% stake in premium tequila brand Patrón to go all in on the tequila business in a deal valued at an eye-watering $5.1 billion.

I say not entirely surprising because tequila, and especially sipping tequila, has become big business in the US market while rum and coke… is not so popular.

Bacardi are a long way from being the first to buy into premium tequila. Diageo bought Casamigos from George Clooney and his partners back in June for a hearty $1 billion. Pernod Ricard went all in on Avión earlier this month. Neither brand produces anywhere near the quantity of liquor as Patrón.

Here in the UK, I still see premium tequila as a niche but growing business. It will be interesting to see where this sector of the market heads with so much financial clout behind it.

As London finally embraces decent Mexican food, I’m noticing more and more quality tequila and, more excitingly, mezcal in bars across the city. And one can’t underestimate the impact of the Wahaca chain in bringing these flavours to an increasingly curious public.

More on mezcal later in the week.

What Is And What Is Not A Martini

Let’s kick this off properly with a drink that divides opinion. The Martini.

A wise woman once wrote that a martini is made with gin, a vodka martini is made with vodka, and an apple martini is an abomination. I know this because I’m married to her. And I agree.

Which is probably just as well.

But let’s go further.

The famous “martini” at Duke’s is not a martini. It is a large glass of cold gin. A martini is a mixed drink. It requires dry vermouth. Now, I don’t care if you add the vermouth with an atomiser, but it must be there.

A martini should be small. It should be very, very cold. And the balance of its dilution over the ice must be tight-rope perfect. Which is why the martini should ideally be stirred. As President Bartlett once said of James Bond’s shaken specimens, “He’s ordering a weak martini and being snooty about it.”

And, to go a little further still, a martini is made of two ingredients, chilled over ice, served “up”, and garnished. Just because your drink is served in a martini (or cocktail) glass, it doesn’t mean it’s a fucking martini. All your lychee martinis, espresso martinis, marmalade martinis and (oh kill me now)_ pornstar martinis… they are not martinis. Why? Because a martini is made with gin and a vodka martini is made with vodka.

All these other drinks may be perfectly enjoyable, though many are not, but they’re just scrabbling for attention on the noble martini’s coat tails. And their names display both a paucity of imagination on the part of their inventors, and a cynical piece of marketing.

To put it another way, the Cosmopolitan is not a cranberry martini.

So you can take your “martini lists”, and shove ’em.



… so you launch a new web thing with all these things you want to write about, and then you promptly go and catch a cold and nothing happens.

Sorry about that.

Posting begins tomorrow.


Tonight—The Wine Show

The new season of The Wine Show starts this evening on Channel 5 at 7pm. And jolly good it is too. I know this because I’ve seen it. I also know this because Kay (the wife, and all-round top food writer) did the catering and dragged me along to help out. Which meant, among other things, rising at five to drive to the nearest industrial boulangerie for everyone’s breakfast and not driving into the villa’s formal fountain. Which also happened.

This season, Joe Fattorini does his level best to educate Matthew Goode and James Purefoy, and us too. And once you’ve seen him in action, you’ll understand exactly why he is the IWSC Wine Communicator Of The Year. Alas, you won’t get to see his marvellous collection of T-shirts with obscure movie references printed upon them, nor his collection of hats. But hey, you do get to see him in lederhosen, which is surely a win in anyone’s book.

Opinionated Drinking…

Opinions, as the cliché goes, are like arseholes: everybody has one. I like this cliché both for its essential truth (which all good clichés should have) and because, when deployed, in insinuates that the person it’s used about is in fact an arsehole.

As a recovering arse-o-holic, I shall endeavour to keep aresholery to a minimum. But there will be plenty of opinions in the coming posts. On all manner of topics. But mostly about drink. And some of them will be forthright.


Because, at the end of the day (and I mean that phrase literally as opposed to as some kind of space-filling verbal tick), a lot of us like a drink to wrap everything up. A little conviviality. A pint or a half. A cocktail. Some wine. And there is no earthly reason why that drink should be bad.

So this is a blog to big up the good, point out the bad, discover new stuff, praise some old stuff, flog the occasional dead horse, meet Maya the Dog’s favourite bartenders and generally talk booze-related bollocks.

In case you’re wondering why I should feel entitled to sound off on these topics I have, at one time or another, done the vendage at vineyards in South Oxfordshire, pulled pints, tended bar in hotels and at private parties, sold wine, consulted, drunk (and got drunk) on four continents and learnt the hard way that your liver won’t thank you if you go out on the piss with chefs.

Kicking off next week, we have an exciting new Mescal to discuss, we need to talk about Gordon’s, we also need to define what is and what is not a martini, and finally to list the Top 5 Worst Things I’ve Drunk Of All Time. And on Friday, perhaps I’ll answer any questions anyone may have. If you’re out there.