This Year’s Best New European Spirits And Bar Products
Here’s everything you need to know about this year’s nominees for Best New European Spirit or Bar Product at the MIXOLOGY BAR AWARDS 2018. Cheers!
The announcement of the MIXOLOGY BAR AWARDS long list is always sure to generate a buzz. Whether you see a bar listed that you’ve always wanted to go to, or learn about a new bartender whose name is worth remembering, the long list shines a spotlight on the best of the European scene.
With so many new brands launched every year, the most dynamic category – and one of the hardest to keep up with – is Best New European Spirit or Bar Product. To really highlight the unique products being made across Europe, we’ve decided to profile this year’s 10 outstanding nominees. Here they are, in alphabetical order
The Bitter Truth Olive Bitters
The latest in a long line of bitters from Germany’s pioneering craft bitters company, The Bitter Truth Olive Bitters were designed with a Dirty Martini in mind. Thankfully, these decidedly savory bitters with hints of brine and thyme along with, of course, green olive, are a partner for more than just gin. The Bitter Truth recommends pairing them with sherry, vermouth, or even tequila.
Founded by Munich bartenders and self-confessed bitters nerds Stephan Berg and Alexander Hauck, The Bitter Truth is now in its 11th year of operation. The company began as a solution to the problem of sourcing high-quality bitters in Germany and quickly found success. In fact, The Bitter Truth Celery Bitters took home a trophy at the MIXOLOGY BAR AWARDS way back in 2008. Let’s see if they can do it again!
Bonpland Rouge V.S.O.P.
The second nominee from Germany, Bonpland Rouge V.S.O.P. is a blended rum. The concept may remind you of the heyday of Rum Verschnitt in Hamburg, but Bonpland is a rum fit more for a king than a pirate.
The blend of rum from Trinidad, Jamaica, Guyana, Guatemala, and Nicaragua is given a second maturation in Germany, in barrels used for pinot noir, hence the word “Rouge” in the name. The barrel maturation adds a flavor of red berries and chocolate. Bonpland Rum is owned and distributed by Capulet & Montague, the Saarbrücken-based company behind the beloved Ferdinand’s Gin.
By The Dutch Batavia Arrack
Arrack has been on the cusp of becoming a trend for some time now, and products like this one may just tip it over into the mainstream. After making a name for themselves a couple of years ago with their craft genever, the Netherlands-based team at By The Dutch have turned their hand to a more exotic spirit with a Dutch connection. By The Dutch Batavia Arrack is an Indonesian spirit made from sugarcane and red rice, then aged in oak barrels.
Rum’s funky Southeast Asian cousin, arrack was brought to Europe by Dutch traders and became a common ingredient in early punch recipes. For bartenders wondering how to use this unique spirit in the present day, By The Dutch recommends mixing arrack, red vermouth, sugar, and bitters.
Helsinki Distilling Company Lingonberry Gin Liqueur
This Finnish distillery has scooped up a lot of awards recently for its rye whiskies, but even more for its gin. Its latest offering, Lingonberry Gin Liqueur, was created to commemorate a century of Finnish independence.
In a way, it’s the Nordic answer to sloe gin – an infusion of the Helsinki Distilling Company’s signature gin with Finnish lingonberries. The berries’ tartness means the Lingonberry Gin Liqueur is much less sweet than most berry-based liqueurs. The company says this makes it the perfect partner for Campari and red vermouth in the strikingly-named “Abattoir Negroni.”
Italicus Rosolio di Bergamotto
Hailing from Italy, the land of vermouth and amaro, you might think Italicus Rosolio di Bergamotto would have its work cut-out just explaining what rosolio is. So it’s a good thing that Guiseppe Gallo, the man behind Italicus, is a spirits industry veteran with the gift of the gab. Italicus is his attempt to resurrect the all-but-extinct category of rosolio, an Italian aperitif with a complicated history.
As the name suggests, Italicus has strong flavors of bergamot, but also sweet lavender and a tangy citrus top note. After launching in the USA, Hong Kong, and Australia earlier this year, Italicus took out the Best New Spirit category at Tales of the Cocktail’s Spirited Awards. Could this be a lucky year for Italicus?
Luxardo Bitter Bianco
Another offbeat product from Italy, Luxardo Bitter Bianco is a bitter liqueur rather than a vermouth, but can comfortably stand in for either. It’s made with a distilled herbal infusion which includes rhubarb, quinine, and cardamom, then enhanced with wormwood to add classical bitter notes.
Luxardo developed the product for use in White Negronis, but the company says it can be used in any recipe calling for white vermouth. It’s also a neutrally-colored alternative to almost any Italian amaro, the majority of which are red. And since amaro is so hot right now, Luxardo may just have found a winning formula.
Otto’s Athens Vermouth
Considering Greece produces so much wine, it’s surprising the country isn’t known for its vermouth, too. The bar team at acclaimed Athens bar The Clumsies set out to change that with Otto’s Athens Vermouth. The name is a reference to the Greek King Otto, who moved the capital to Athens and commissioned the very first Greek vermouth to be made there.
This is something of a passion project for bartenders Nikos Bakoulis and Vasilis Kyritsis, the men behind The Clumsies. Otto’s is a red vermouth, infused with rose petals, vanilla, citrus, oregano, and appropriately, olive leaves. The taste is sweet with a slightly bitter finish, and although it’s a good fit for cocktails calling for red vermouth, the team recommends serving Otto’s in a highball with tonic and an orange peel.
Rémy-Martin Cognac Carte Blanche à Baptiste Loiseau
A brand which needs no introduction provides France’s sole nominee for Best New European Spirit or Bar Product this year. If the mouthful of name didn’t give it away, this is a limited edition release from a single vat, chosen by Rémy Martin cellar master, Baptiste Loiseau.
Rémy-Martin Cognac Carte Blanche à Baptiste Loiseau is more than 20 years old and was reportedly chosen for release by Loiseau because of its remarkably long finish, with lingering flavors of lilac and violet. The nose features strong aromas of black tea and aged leather. Packaged in a 19th-century-style bottle, needless to say, this is a cognac for sipping rather than mixing.
Schweppes Matcha Tonic
The Schweppes Matcha Tonic is one of a range of experimental tonic waters the mixer giant has released in Spain. Amongst flavors like hibiscus and rose pepper, Matcha Tonic stands out with its subtle but unmistakable taste of green tea. Schweppes recommends serving it in a classic Gin & Tonic, but with the addition of fresh mint, as well as lemon, as a garnish.
As Schweppes’s new tonic flavors slowly roll out across Europe, hopefully more bartenders will get the chance to play with this unique mixer. With the European scene currently teeming with new premium mixers, an unexpected product like this can be quite refreshing.
Three Cents Gentlemen’s Soda
Speaking of premium mixers, meet the second Greek nominee: Three Cents Gentlemen’s Soda. After making a splash with their grapefruit soda, the Three Cents team have taken their next step in an unusual direction. Gentleman’s Soda is a carbonated citrus drink, made with bergamot and mandarin – it’s almost an attempt at a premium alternative to Fanta. The bitter bergamot notes mean Three Cents recommends Gentleman’s Soda as a mixer with gin and Chartreuse in a “Sir Collins.”
Founded by Greek bartenders and hospitality veterans, Vassilis Kalantzis, George Bagos, Dimitris Dafopoulos and George Tsirikos in 2014, Three Cents has made a name for itself with unique mixers tailored for particular drinks. Their Aegean Tonic made it into the shortlist at the MIXOLOGY BAR AWARDS last year – let’s see if they can do even better this time!
Foto: Photo via Katja Hiendlmayer.