donderdag 21 oktober 2021

Cuberdon Gin: A hero in sustainability


Sometimes a bottle of booze can really give you the wrong idea. My food-blogging wife went to a press event for the launch of a new cookbook and brought home a bottle of Cuberdon Gin in the giftbag, made by Holy Water Gin. In case you don’t know a Cuberdon: it’s a popular sweet from the region of Ghent, the taste is extremely sweet and fruity. 

At first, I thought the gin would be terribly sweet too, but I was wrong. It’s a very floral gin, the Cuberdon is mainly in the aroma. The gin is made with juniper, coriander, cardamom seeds, Cuberdon, angelica root, orris root, orange peel and lavender.

It’s a nice gin, but this time I can tell much more about the bottle. Since we all have to think a bit more about sustainability, this brand did something extraordinary with their bottle. Minimising their ecological footprint is a primary goal for this brand. The bottle doesn’t have a label glued to the glass, but the info about the gin is printed on a paper label that is hanging loose on the bottle. You can easily remove it and reuse the bottle for something else. It’s a beautiful vintage bottle that looks stunning on any home bar or bar cart. You can reuse it for any other liquid, or transform it into a mood light. You can also reuse the bottle as a candle holder and the stopper will also fit on Champagne bottles. The paper label at last can be reused as a bookmark. 

I tasted the gin neat to explore aroma and taste. Next, I made a delicious Gin & Tonic with Grapefruit & Rosemary tonic by The London Essence. At last, I also mixed up a Gin Sour with freshly squeezed lemon juice and simple syrup. With a good base spirit, you don’t need to do crazy things. Just a basic recipe will give you a nice drink to enjoy. 

Disclaimer: All pictures and texts are copyrighted by Geert Conard and Esito Management & Communications unless stated otherwise in the article. While some items might have been gifted by the producer or distributor, these are in no way paid promotions or recommendations. 

maandag 18 oktober 2021

Viper Reviver


Sometimes you spot a recipe and you just want to mix it and taste it. That’s what I did when I saw this ‘Viper Reviver’. It’s a very tasty variation on the Corpse Reviver 2.

Viper Reviver

Ingredients
30 ml Drebbel Gin
15 ml Blue Curacao
15 ml Lillet Blanc
15 ml Fresh lemon juice
15 ml Pineapple juice
A dash of Absinthe for the rinse

Method
Add everything but the Absinthe to your shaker with lots of ice and give it a good shake. Rinse the glass with Absinthe and cool it with ice. Discard everything from the glass and fine strain the cocktail. It’s nice to use pineapple leaves for garnish, but I didn’t have any so I opted for this amareno cherry. 

Disclaimer: All pictures and texts are copyrighted by Geert Conard and Esito Management & Communications unless stated otherwise in the article. While some items might have been gifted by the producer or distributor, these are in no way paid promotions or recommendations.

vrijdag 15 oktober 2021

Fruity Jack Old Fashioned


Just a few more weeks and we reach my favourite week of the year, the Old Fashioned Week. Of course also this year we will share several delicious Old Fashioned recipes. Let’s get a head start with a small variation on our last post. 

Jack’s Fruity Old Fashioned

Ingredients
50 ml Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey
7 ml Simple Syrup
1 barspoon of Apricot Marmalade
1 dash of orange bitters

Method
The best way to mix this drink is to stir it up in stages. Add the Marmalade to your glass with bitters and 10 ml of whisky. Add a splash of soda. Muddle the marmalade to dissolve it. Add two ice cubes. Add 20 ml whisky. Stir. Add more ice. Add the last 20 ml whisky. Stir again. Add more ice. Garnish with orange peel of a dehydrated orange slice and serve with a dark chocolate to complete the experience. Enjoy.

P.S. During the Old Fashioned Week next month, this cocktail will also be available on the suggestions menu at Paal 26 Grand Café.

Disclaimer : All pictures and texts are copyrighted by Geert Conard and Esito Management & Communications unless stated otherwise in the article. While some items might have been gifted by the producer or distributor, these are in no way paid promotions or recommendations.

woensdag 13 oktober 2021

'X' by Glenmorangie


A couple of years ago Belroy’s started to distill and blend spirits with the single goal that they would work just perfect for many cocktail recipes. I always thought that was a great idea and their vodka is one of the best I have tasted so far. It seems that this year the same idea is picked up by a few large distillers and brands. 

You could say that every whisky can be used for mixing. That’s true, but a proper mixologist will always mix and match the spirits based on taste and aroma. Creating a whisky that will be perfect for lots of mixes is another story. 

A few months ago Glenmorangie launched “X”. On the bottle it states clearly “Made for mixing”. This whisky has a slightly sweeter and richer taste which will absolutely stand out when mixed with any kind of mixer, or used in a cocktail. Just use 50 ml of whisky with 75 ml of mixer. The whisky is also perfect for low alcohol drinks where you use only 30 ml of whisky with your favourite mixer. I attended a webinar with Jan Van Ongevalle who suggested “X” highballs with following mixers : 

  • Lipton Peach Ice Tea
  • Coca Cola Signature Mixers “Woody”
  • Soda water
  • Ginger Beer

I asked what he thought was needed to create a tasty cocktail with cold drip coffee. The answer was “a bit a pear juice”. Certainly trying that too. But you know I absolutely love Old Fashioned cocktails, let’s start with that… 

X-O Fashioned

Ingredients
50 ml ‘X’ by Glenmorangie
A generous barspoon (or even two barspoons) of apricot marmalade
A dash of orange bitters
A splash of soda (sparkling water. I often use Perrier for this purpose)

Method
The best way to mix this drink is to stir it up in stages. Add the Marmalade to your glass with bitters and 10 ml of whisky. Add a splash of soda. Muddle the marmalade to dissolve it. Add two ice cubes. Add 20 ml whisky. Stir. Add more ice. Add the last 20 ml whisky. Stir again. Add more ice. Garnish with orange peel of a dehydrated orange slice. Enjoy.

P.S. Watch out for next article, I made another variation on this recipe.

Disclaimer : All pictures and texts are copyrighted by Geert Conard and Esito Management & Communications unless stated otherwise in the article. While some items might have been gifted by the producer or distributor, these are in no way paid promotions or recommendations.

zondag 10 oktober 2021

Amortentia (Harry Potter Cocktail)


My wife, daughter and my wife’s best friend were organising a ‘Harry Potter Night’ on Saturday evening. All three of them are big fans of the Harry Potter movies. They picked their favourite movie from the series and were even doing a complete themed dinner. My daughter was wearing her Hogwarts shirt. Of course, they asked me to mix up a themed cocktail.

I made my take on the famous Amortentia Love Potion. Sometimes it’s made as a simple mix of cranberry juice, vodka and grenadine syrup. I searched for a more complex-flavoured recipe to make my variation. I wanted to use Drebbel Gin, which actually sounds like it’s from a Harry Potter movie anyway 😉   

Amortentia

Ingredients
40 ml Aperol
40 ml Pomegranate juice
25 ml Drebbel Gin
75 ml Prosecco

Method
Add Aperol, pomegranate juice and gin to your shaker with lots of ice. Shake hard for 15 seconds. Strain in a cocktail- or coppa glass with lots of fresh ice. Add chilled Prosecco and give it just one or two gentle stirs. Garnish with raspberries and pomegranate.

P.S. This cocktail is also perfect for pre-batching. But do remember not to shake the bottle !!!

Disclaimer: All pictures and texts are copyrighted by Geert Conard and Esito Management & Communications unless stated otherwise in the article. While some items might have been gifted by the producer or distributor, these are in no way paid promotions or recommendations. 

woensdag 6 oktober 2021

The Slightly Yellow Dirty Dog - Mellow Corn


Each year I seem to discover a few spirits that are somehow ‘different’ and really leave their mark in my memory. This year I had this feeling with Eddu buckwheat whisky from Normandy (FR), but also with this old-school Mellow Corn from Kentucky (US). For starters they might get the prize for least attractive labelling. But this screaming yellow bottle does have a nice surprise inside.

Mellow Corn is a Straight Corn Whiskey, which seems to be the predecessor of Bourbon. With this bottle we are absolutely going retro in booze-history.

Mashbill: 80% Corn, 12% Malted Barley and 8% Rye. Bottled at 100-Proof (50% Alcohol). Aged four years in a once-used bourbon barrel. The result is a lighter, straw coloured spirit. Heaven Hill is one of the last distillers that still produces this unique Straight Corn Whiskey.

My followers know I like a good Bourbon, so you can already imagine that I also like this whiskey. With 80% corn it’s pretty sweet, but at the same time it has a lot of spicy influences.

  • Nose: Oak and delicate spices
  • Taste: Full-bodied and textured, with a softly spiced sweetness.
  • Finish: Sweet and chewy like a Barbadian rum.

Americans love to drink Bourbon, chased by a shot of pickle brine. They call this combination the pickleback. This tradition shows that “pickled” matches really good with corn whiskey. That brought me to the idea to use this whiskey for a variation on the Dirty Martini. I know that back in the days of illegal moonshine, they already did this with unaged spirit and called it the ‘Dirty White Dog’.

Slightly Yellow Dirty Dog

Ingredients
50 ml Mellow Corn Whiskey
20 ml Leoncé vermouth
10 ml Olive brine

Method
Add everything to your mixglass with lots of ice. Stir for 30 seconds. Strain in a chilled Martini glass. Add an olive.

Disclaimer : All pictures and texts are copyrighted by Geert Conard and Esito Management & Communications unless stated otherwise in the article. While some items might have been gifted by the producer or distributor, these are in no way paid promotions or recommendations.

maandag 4 oktober 2021

Mom Gin Love


Watch out Moms, there’s a new sister in town !!!

Mom Gin, the popular Gin brand by Gonzalez Byass, released the third bottling of their spirit, still targeting our queens. This time they released a pink gin, still with lots of sweet strawberry flavours. They infused the gin again with strawberries after the fourth distillation. The result is a very fruity and easy sipping gin with a soft finish.

I’m not really a big fan of sweet gins. Sometimes even in cocktails, they seem pretty hard to balance. Do I like this bottle? I think I like it best pure on ice in a tumbler, as a companion for a sweet dessert. Hold the tonic, for me it’s optional but not really necessary.  

Disclaimer: All pictures and texts are copyrighted by Geert Conard and Esito Management & Communications unless stated otherwise in the article. While some items might have been gifted by the producer or distributor, these are in no way paid promotions or recommendations.

zondag 3 oktober 2021

The Hokey Toki


I really don’t want to end up in a discussion about Japanese whisk(e)y versus Scotch whisky, but just let me say that these day in Japan they have some excellent bottles which work pretty good in cocktails. Suntory Toki blended whisky is one of my favourites for clean and tasty Japanese-style drinks.

Hokey Toki

Ingredients
60 ml Suntory Toki Whisky
15 ml Amaro Montenegro
15 ml Benedictine
2 dashes Regan’s Orange bitters
1 dash Grapefruit bitters

Method
Add all ingredients to a mixing glass with lots of ice. Stir for 15 seconds and strain over a large cube of ice. Garnish with grapefruit. 

Disclaimer : All pictures and texts are copyrighted by Geert Conard and Esito Management & Communications unless stated otherwise in the article. While some items might have been gifted by the producer or distributor, these are in no way paid promotions or recommendations. 

maandag 27 september 2021

The Louisiana - Rittenhouse Rye


Fans of Double Strainger know that my favourite cocktails are the Old Fashioned and the Sazerac. The Old Fashioned I always relate to dark speakeasy bars, the Sazerac is the official cocktail of New Orleans. You could even call the Sazerac the New Orleans variation for the Old Fashioned. 

Today I’m shaking a very tasty variation on the Sazerac called The Louisiana. Unlike the Sazerac, you will need your shaker for this drink to get it mixed just right.

I used Rittenhouse Rye Whiskey as the base for this drink. If you ask bartenders around the world about their favourite Rye whiskey, Rittenhouse will absolutely be the top answer. 

If you want to lower the alcohol level for this drink, you can easily lower the amount of rye whiskey to 35 ml without changing the rest of the recipe. The 100-proof spirit will take care of it. Top quality spirit.

  • Mashbill : 51% Rye, 35% Corn, 14% Malted Barley.
  • Aroma : Dried fruits, sweet peppers, toffee.
  • Taste : Clean, rich, cocoa, citrus, cinnamon, nutmeg and vanilla.
  • Finish : Maple-like spiciness

Louisiana

Ingredients
50 ml Rittenhouse Rye whiskey
5 ml Absinthe
25 ml Cinzano sweet vermouth
15 ml Benedictine
3 dashes of Peychaud's bitters

Method
Add everything to your shaker with lots of ice. Shake for 12 seconds and double strain in a chilled coupe. Garnish with a cocktail cherry.

Disclaimer : All pictures and texts are copyrighted by Geert Conard and Esito Management & Communications unless stated otherwise in the article. While some items might have been gifted by the producer or distributor, these are in no way paid promotions or recommendations.

zondag 26 september 2021

Spirits In Beringen 2021


Each year I’m more than happy to visit Spirits in Beringen, the local whisky and spirits festival in my town, Beringen. What I like most about this festival is that this is really the place to taste some old and rare bottlings. And also for this edition, that was a fact.

Stijn Hiers was presenting his new book on whisky and already whispered that he is working on his next book which will be a trip through America, focusing on all local spirits. 

At the booth of “Whisky from Belgium”, Patrick showed me the first bottle of his range which will release 4 bottlings each year, for 10 years. This first whisky is 10 years old, distilled at Wave Distillery in Dinant. Aged on virgin oak and bottled at 61% ABV. Lots of honey and vanilla. Looking forward to the next bottles, because he will also use different finishes.

Brugse Whisky Company” was the most interesting booth. They didn’t sell any bottles, they came to Beringen to gain some visibility. Their core business is ageing whisky on different small casks, adding flavours to create maximum result. More or less what Daniel Quanten is also doing. He made me taste a fantastic Cognac.

This year I also gave the whisky club a challenge. I wanted to taste a spirit that was exactly my age, distilled in 1968. Ivo Drabs came to the rescue with a fantastic Prunier Cognac. I expected the Cognac to be slightly sticky and sweet and with a tempered alcohol level. Not at all. The balance was just perfect and the Cognac still had a great cask strength of 48,8% ABV. Ivo started his business with the range of Cognacs from Vallein-Tercinier. He build his knowledge to the point that he wanted to target for pure quality at cask strength. He found this at Cognac Prunier. The whole range is at cask strength with Cognac from the best regions.

Spirits in Beringen did it again. They succeeded in surprising us with some great old and rare bottles. This year we also got to taste a (free!) festival bottling. I was already happy when I saw the Douglas Laing logo on top of the bottle. This Old Particular was a great whisky from Cameronbridge.

Looking forward to next year's edition. 

Disclaimer : All pictures and texts are copyrighted by Geert Conard and Esito Management & Communications unless stated otherwise in the article. While some items might have been gifted by the producer or distributor, these are in no way paid promotions or recommendations.

woensdag 22 september 2021

The Perfect Grape Martini


Over the past years I’ve already covered lots of Martini cocktails on this blog. The variations are almost endless: Dry Martini, Reverse Martini, Breakfast Martini, Espresso Martini, Pornstar Martini,… 
But I don’t think I ever mixed up a real 50/50 Martini. 

The 50/50 Martini is actually more or less the original Martini, with even parts gin and vermouth. Sometimes confused with the Perfect Martini, which still has more gin than vermouth, but it does split the vermouth in even parts dry and sweet vermouth. 

Fact check 
In recipes pre-1900 the Martini was made with even parts of Old Tom Gin (a sweeter style of gin) and sweet vermouth. Around 1920 the Dry Martini became popular with a mix of dry gin and dry vermouth. The ratio changed to 2:1 which developed even further with just a rinse of vermouth as the most extreme. Unless you’re a fan of Churchill and only “look at the bottle of vermouth from across the room, while pouring a glass of gin”, but that quote might also be a myth 😉 

Martini Basics  

  • Dry Martini : A Martini with much less vermouth. The less vermouth, the drier your Martini. Ratios can be anything between 3:1 and 100:1 (=just a rinse)
  • Wet Martini : A Martini with more vermouth, which makes it sweeter than average. The more vermouth, the ‘wetter’ your Martini. A classic Wet Martini today is 3:1, which is just above the threshold for the Dry Martini. 
  • 50/50 Martini : A wet Martini with even parts gin and vermouth
  • Reverse Martini or Upside-Down Martini : A wet Martini with more vermouth than gin
  • Dirty Martini : A Martini with a splash of olive brine added to the recipe
  • Perfect Martini : A Martini where the vermouth is split in even parts dry and sweet vermouth. 
  • Naked Martini : A Martini without vermouth. Churchill would have loved it 😉 

There are three standard garnishes for Martini drinks to pick from : A green olive, a lemon twist or a pickled onion, which changes the name to a Gibson.

Last week I received a parcel with a bottle of gin and a bottle of vermouth, both created by François Lurton, winemaker in France with Sauvignon Blanc grapes. I have met François a few years ago at the Belgian launch event for Sorgin, I still remember his passion for the grape. These two bottles are created with a lot of love for the fruits of his vineyards. No better choice for a 50/50 Martini.

The Perfect Grape Martini

Ingredients
1 part Sorgin Gin
1 part Leoncé Extra Dry vermouth
1 dash of orange bitters

Method
Add all ingredients in a mixing glass with lots of ice. Use even parts gin and vermouth. Stir for 15 seconds and strain in a pre-chilled coupe. Garnish with a couple of grapes. 

Disclaimer : All pictures and texts are copyrighted by Geert Conard and Esito Management & Communications unless stated otherwise in the article. While some items might have been gifted by the producer or distributor, these are in no way paid promotions or recommendations.

vrijdag 17 september 2021

The Unexpected Rosé Negroni


The #Negroniweek is the perfect moment to experiment with some variations on the iconic Negroni-recipe. You always need a tasty spirit, a wine-based aperitif and bitters. You need to balance the flavors to get the right result. In most cases, like the recipe below, even parts will be fine. In some cases you need a bit extra spirit, or a spirit with a slightly higher ABV to get things right. 

Today I’m mixing up a rum-based Negroni-style drink that’s light and very fruity.

The Unexpected Rosé Negroni

Ingredients
30 ml Matusalem Rum Insolito (aged rosé rum)
30 ml Leonce Vermouth
30 ml Aperol

Method
Do it like the Italians, add everything to a tumbler with icecubes and stir for 15 seconds. Garnish with orange peel or dehydrated orange.

Disclaimer : All pictures and texts are copyrighted by Geert Conard and Esito Management & Communications unless stated otherwise in the article. While some items might have been gifted by the producer or distributor, these are in no way paid promotions or recommendations. 

woensdag 15 september 2021

Negroniweek 2021 - Conte Negroni


Each year I try to include a bottled/premixed Negroni in my #Negroniweek posts. Last year I featured the Verhofstede Negroni, a complex mix of four (instead of three) of their existing products. At the start of this year I received a bottle of Conte Negroni, a brand new Belgian pre-mixed Negroni, which also has a great story. They created their own Gin,Vermouth and Bitters with the sole purpose of blending them together to create the best possible bottled Negroni. 

After a first tasting I decided this would be the bottled Negroni for this years’ edition of #Negroniweek. When I compare this drink to the better Negronis I’ve tasted in Italy… this one comes pretty close. It could use a slightly longer finish, but the flavor profile is excellent. 

The Negroni has a typical nose of bittersweet oranges, calamus root and quassia bark. A four week minimum barrel ageing enhances the flavors and really blends everything together.  
Always serve on ice and add an orange peel of a dehydrated orange slice to complete the drink.

The iconic Negroni is Italy’s Nr.1 aperitivo with strong bittersweet flavors. You like it or not. If you feel the bittersweet taste is too strong for you, you can always top your drink with a bit of tonic or Prosecco. The guys from Conte Negroni are suggesting a “Perfect Serve” highball by adding some Gemellii Bergamot Tonic. 

For the highball serve I used a biodegradable disposable cork straw from La Paille en Liege.  

Disclaimer : All pictures and texts are copyrighted by Geert Conard and Esito Management & Communications unless stated otherwise in the article. While some items might have been gifted by the producer or distributor, these are in no way paid promotions or recommendations.

maandag 13 september 2021

Negroniweek 2021 - Evan Williams Bottled In Bond


It’s Negroniweek again. Drink for a cause. Visit your favorite bar and have one the Negroni-style drinks on the menu. They will donate something for charity, for each Negroni sold during this week. 

Like former years, bloggers around the world will also promote this week and put this iconic Italian aperitif in the spotlights. And of course we’ll make a few delicious variations. As I like to keep things simple on my blog, I’m not going to work with infusions or handmade syrups etc. I’m going to share a pretty good bottled Negroni and I’ll mix up a couple of tasty variations on the original. 

Let’s start with a tasty Boulevardier. The gin is swapped for whisky, but for me this really needs to be a good quality Bourbon. From my recently received box of Heaven Hill whiskeys, I pick a bottle of Evan Williams Bottled in Bond.

This 100 proof version of the world's second largest selling Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey is aged four years under U.S. Government Supervision to meet the exacting standards for Bottled-in-Bond. First enacted by Congress in 1897 and still on the books today, Bottled-in-Bond guarantees quality and assures consumers the product is bottled at exactly 100 proof, the product of one distilling season at one distillery, aged at least four years, and clearly labeled with name of the distillery who made it and Distilled Spirits Plant (D.S.P.) number in which it was made and bottled.

Evan Williams Boulevardier

Ingredients
30 ml Evan Williams Bottled in bond 100-proof
30 ml Campari
30 ml Cinzano Sweet vermouth

Method
Make this one like they do it in Italy. Fill your glass with icecubes, add all ingredients and stir until nice and cold. Garnish with a piece of orange peel (first extract the lovely oils on top of your drink) or a dehydrated orange slice. Enjoy !!!

Disclaimer : All pictures and texts are copyrighted by Geert Conard and Esito Management & Communications unless stated otherwise in the article. While some items might have been gifted by the producer or distributor, these are in no way paid promotions or recommendations. 

donderdag 9 september 2021

Keep it quiet... with Elijah Craig Bourbon


As promised, in this period I’m going to do lots of things with the American whiskey bottlings of Heaven Hill. A bottle that I was really looking forward to is this Elijah Craig Small Batch Bourbon.

With 78% Corn, 10% Rye and 12% malted barley this is a lovely and sweet Bourbon.  It’s a mix of 8 to 12 year old barrels, bottled at 47% alcohol (94 proof).

Complex aroma with lots of vanilla, sweet fruit and fresh mint. Smooth and warm in the mouth, wood, spice, smoke and nutmeg. Long sweet and slightly toasted finish.

This bourbon will work in most whiskey-cocktails, but I wanted a classy drink with unexpected flavors.

The cocktail for today is a Manhattan-style drink, but a lot fresher and fruitier. It’s a variation on the recipe of ‘The unnecessary noice’.

Keep it quiet

Ingredients
50 ml Elijah Craig
22,5 ml Aperol
Abinthe (just for the rinse)
A splash of Lillet Blanc

Method
First add some Absinthe to your Martini glass, swirl it around and add some ice to chill the glass.

Add all other ingredients to a mixing glass with lots of ice. Stir for 10 to 12 seconds. Discard the ice from the glass and strain your cocktail. Garnish with a piece of orange peel or a cocktail cherry. 

Disclaimer : All pictures and texts are copyrighted by Geert Conard and Esito Management & Communications unless stated otherwise in the article. While some items might have been gifted by the producer or distributor, these are in no way paid promotions or recommendations.

dinsdag 7 september 2021

Evan Williams Black


In April I co-hosted a ‘Bourbon town’ masterclass about the whiskey-range of Heaven Hill. A recording can still be found on our blogpages (select ‘More’ in the top menu). A couple of weeks ago I received a huge box with all the bottles from this range. In the next weeks I’ll be playing, experimenting, sampling and tasting this great whiskey. 

I’m starting with the entry-level bottle: Evan Williams Black. This is a nice no-nonsense bourbon that every whisky enthusiast will love to sip. 
  • Mashbill : 78% Corn, 12% Malted barley and 10% Rye.
  • Bottled at 43% Alcohol (86 Proof) which is a bit higher than most competitors in this price range. 
  • Light aroma with deep vanilla and even some mint. 
  • Taste : Notes of oak, brown sugar and caramel
  • Medium to long finish.
You can enjoy this bourbon neat, with ice, with soda, with ginger-ale or ginger beer. Even with cola if you want. 

I decided to taste it neat with a few nice slices of Eifel sirloin steak and fries. Perfect combination. (And yes, it’s really possible to drink whiskey with a meal… I just wouldn’t recommend to do it every day 😉)

About the meat: Eifel cattle are a typical beef breed that’s kept on the large herb pastures of the mid-Eifel. My supplier sources this meat from farms near St-Vith in the German-speaking part of our country. 

Disclaimer : All pictures and texts are copyrighted by Geert Conard and Esito Management & Communications unless stated otherwise in the article. While some items might have been gifted by the producer or distributor, these are in no way paid promotions or recommendations.

maandag 6 september 2021

Gault & Millau Regional Guide for Knokke-Heist


The city of Knokke-Heist did something no other Belgian city has done before. They launched their own regional Gault & Millau guide. Today I received a copy in the mail and I have to say… I actually like it better than the well-known annual yellow bible with all the best restaurants.

Next to the best restaurants and POP addresses, they also list a selection of the best artisans, food shops, chocolatiers and (cocktail-)bars. And even more, since the Zwin region really glues Knokke and Cadzand together, they also list the best places on the other side of the border. 

The guide is distributed free to everyone in Knokke, but you can also buy your copy at the tourist info and local bookshops. 

Cocktailbars like The Pharmacy, Cicciolina or Mr. Panda are not to be missed. If you also visit the other side, I can recommend stopping at Blueness. They also serve fantastic cocktails to combine with the Asian-style bites !

P.S. Congrats to cocktail-godfather Jan Van Ongevalle for getting his brand new restaurant Ugly Duckling already listed in the guide.

Disclaimer : All pictures and texts are copyrighted by Geert Conard and Esito Management & Communications unless stated otherwise in the article. While some items might have been gifted by the producer or distributor, these are in no way paid promotions or recommendations. 

donderdag 2 september 2021

An American in Beringen


The end of summer is near, autumn is just around the corner, but we still try to catch those last rays of sunlight and combine them with delicious highball cocktails. Slightly lower in ABV and very refreshing. 

This recipe is a variation on one of Italy’s most famous bitter aperitifs, the Americano, with a base of Pinguino vermouth. This is a local product made in Paal-Beringen (Belgium) by Chef Wim Schoofs. 

For this recipe I’ve experimented with several measurements. For my personal taste this 30/30 mix had the best result. As said before in another blogpost, Pinguino is a premium vermouth, made with herbs and spices from all around the world. It’s just perfect in a highball with tonic. But when you use it as an ingredient for a real cocktail, in my opinion it develops deeper flavours more like an amaro. What I concluded from my experiments for this drink is that if you use maximum 30 ml you will keep the leash on it and it adds everything you expect from a super-premium vermouth. When you add more than 30 ml the ‘amaro-style’ horsepower starts to break loose which is a totally different experience. In this drink I really wanted the best possible vermouth-flavors I could get from this bottle. Compared to the original Americano, it just needed a little extra punch, which I added by swapping the soda water for Pink Pepper tonic. 

An American in Beringen

Ingredients
30 ml Pinguino vermouth
30 ml Campari
Schweppes Premium Mixer – Pink pepper tonic

Method
You can serve this drink in many styles. Negroni-style in an old Fashioned glass, aperitivo-style in a highball or … why the hell not, Spritz-wise in a big Coppa-glass with lots of ice. 

Add both Campari and vermouth to your glass with lots of ice. Give it a few stirs to mix. Add tonic and give it just a few more very gentle stirs. You don’t want to remove the bubbly. Garnish with a wedge of orange. Enjoy !!!

P.S. Next month, for a limited time, this drink will be on the suggestions menu at Paal 26 Grand Café in Beringen. 

Disclaimer : All pictures and texts are copyrighted by Geert Conard and Esito Management & Communications unless stated otherwise in the article. This blogpost is a paid partnership with Paal 26 Grand Café.

dinsdag 31 augustus 2021

After Dinner Martini for real coffee lovers


It’s rather unusual for this season, but this summer I’ve seen several new bottles hitting the shelves. Today I’m combining two new Belgian products in a delicious after dinner cocktail.

Insurgent Cold Drip : Imagine roughly cut coffee beans and ice cold water. It takes 18 hours to create cold drip coffee, drip by drip. The caffeine level is almost double from normal coffee but all the rough edges are gone. 70% less sours and bitters. 100% clean and natural in every single drop.  

Pinguino Vermouth : Seasoned Chef Wim Schoofs shared this project with me almost a year ago. It took until now to prepare for the launch. Wim has spent many years finetuning the recipe for this premium vermouth, made with herbs and spices from all around the world. It’s absolutely refreshing in a highball with tonic. But when you use it as an ingredient for a proper cocktail, in my opinion it develops very interesting flavors which are more like an amaro. But just to be clear, Pinguino is wine-based just like any other vermouth. Very special product that really changes in taste when sampling it neat, with ice, with water or with any other mixer. 

No, this cocktail is not your average Espresso Martini. I’ve seen similar recipes before with very herbal amari, but never with a vermouth. The flavors and aromas of the vermouth absolutely take the lead. The coffee undertones define the type of drink. This recipe will not create a thick and creamy foam layer like a classic Espresso Martini. In the taste it will highlight raw and pure tones instead of the silky softness you’re used to. It’s really another type of drink, but very tasty. I dare to state this is a coffee cocktail for real coffee enthusiasts. 

After-dinner Martini for real coffee lovers

Ingredients
50 ml Filliers Grain Vodka
30 ml Pinguino Vermouth
25 ml Resurgent Cold Drip coffee
10 ml Honey syrup

Method
Add everything to a shaker with lots of ice and shake for 10 to 12 seconds. Strain into your glass. It works pretty good in a tumbler with fresh ice, but you can also serve it as a Martini. I don’t really need garnish on this one, but when you serve it to your guests maybe add a few coffee beans just as you would do with an Espresso Martini. 

Disclaimer : All pictures and texts are copyrighted by Geert Conard and Esito Management & Communications unless stated otherwise in the article. While some items might have been gifted by the producer or distributor, these are in no way paid promotions or recommendations.

maandag 23 augustus 2021

Lillet Apero(L)


The iconic Negroni seems to be a source for endless variations. Since I was playing around with the bottle of Lillet Blanc to make the Reverse Vesper, I thought it would be a great idea to use it also for a nice Italian-style aperitif 😉. This cocktail is a light and fruity Negroni-variation. 

Lillet Apero(L)

Ingredients
30 ml Aperol
30 ml Lillet Blanc
30 ml Cinzano sweet vermouth

Method
Stir together in a tumbler or mixing glass. Garnish with dehydrated orange. 

P.S. Next month, for a limited time, this drink will be on the suggestions menu at Paal 26 Grand Café.

Disclaimer : All pictures and texts are copyrighted by Geert Conard and Esito Management & Communications unless stated otherwise in the article. While some items might have been gifted by the producer or distributor, these are in no way paid promotions or recommendations. This article is a paid partnership with Paal 26 Grand Café.

vrijdag 20 augustus 2021

Reverse Vesper with Lillet Blanc


'Three measures of Gordon's, one of vodka, half a measure of Kina Lillet. Shake it very well until it's ice-cold, then add a large thin slice of lemon-peel. Got it?'

It’s not the first time we talk about the Vesper on this blog. The iconic Dry Martini variation, as featured in the James Bond novel and movie “Casino Royale”, is a spirit-forward drink with world fame. The original recipe called for Kina Lillet as vermouth-style ingredient. In 1986 they removed most of the quinine liqueur from the recipe and changed the name of the bottle to Lillet Blanc. Quinine is very bitter, so the current Lillet is much softer in taste. 

In the movie, Vesper asks Bond if he named the drink after her "because of the bitter aftertaste", James answers "I named it after you because once you have tasted it, you won't drink anything else." 

If you want to serve a Vesper that comes very close to the original recipe, you could swap the Lillet for Cocchi Americano. But that is NOT what we are going to do today. 

The Vesper is a pretty heavy drink. In summer I like my drinks to be slightly lower in alcohol. That’s why the ‘Reverse Vesper’ might be a great idea. With Lillet Blanc as a base you get a totally different drink that’s actually really tasty. The recipe is very much Lillet-forward and has the stronger spirits in a supporting role, which will boost the flavors of the Lillet.  

About the measurements for this drink… There are many different sizes in Martini glasses available. Through history originally Martini glasses were pretty small drinks (so you could drink many of them)… but the size of the glasses always got bigger and bigger. For this reason I’ll give you the recipe also in parts, to adjust the recipe to the size of your glasses.

And yes, I like my drinks “bar-style”, so my recipe is still slightly bolder than what you’ll find on the brand websites for average home use 😉 

Reverse Vesper

Ingredients
40 ml or 3 parts Lillet Blanc
25 ml or 2 parts Filliers Grain Vodka
7 ml or ½ part Beefeater Gin

Method
A Vesper needs to be “shaken, not stirred”… but this Reverse Vesper is a light cocktail that might get too weak when shaken. I prefer this one stirred, just like my other Martini drinks. 

Stir together in a mixing glass with lots of ice. Strain in a chilled Martini glass. Garnish with a lemon twist. First give it a squeeze to get some of the oils on your drink. 

P.S. Next month, for a limited time, this drink will be on the suggestions menu at Paal 26 Grand Café.

Disclaimer : All pictures and texts are copyrighted by Geert Conard and Esito Management & Communications unless stated otherwise in the article. While some items might have been gifted by the producer or distributor, these are in no way paid promotions or recommendations. This article is a paid partnership with Paal 26 Grand Café.

dinsdag 17 augustus 2021

You only live once


This drink is a soft variation on the “Yolanda” recipe. For me it’s a nice “in between” cocktail starting the transition from light highball summer drinks towards next seasons’ drinks with lots of dark spirits. 

You only live once

Ingredients
15 ml Vecchia Romagna (Italian brandy)
15 ml Maria Brizard Anisette
15 ml Beefeater Gin
30 ml Cinzano sweet vermouth
A few drops of grenadine syrup

Method
Shake all ingredients with lots of ice. Strain in a chilled coupe and garnish with a citrus peel. First squeeze it to get some of those wonderful oils on top of your drink. 

Disclaimer : All pictures and texts are copyrighted by Geert Conard and Esito Management & Communications unless stated otherwise in the article. While some items might have been gifted by the producer or distributor, these are in no way paid promotions or recommendations.

donderdag 12 augustus 2021

Banana Boulevardier


Sometimes a small alteration in a recipe can have a big influence on taste. This is another one you really have to try !

Banana Boulevardier

Ingredients
30 ml Bourbon
30 ml Cinzano sweet vermouth
15 ml Campari
15 ml Giffard Banane du Brésil

Method
Stir either directly in the glass or in a mixing glass. Just remember you need small icecubes in the glass where you do the stirring. It really doesn’t work very well with a big block. If you stir in a mixing glass and then strain into your tumbler, you have the option to serve the drink with a big block of ice. 

This is a Negroni-variation, so garnish should be orange peel or dehydrated orange. 

Disclaimer : All pictures and texts are copyrighted by Geert Conard and Esito Management & Communications unless stated otherwise in the article. While some items might have been gifted by the producer or distributor, these are in no way paid promotions or recommendations.

maandag 9 augustus 2021

Tasting "Victoria" - Patrón competition cocktail by Jules Verlinden


When you think about bartenders competing in prestigious international cocktail competitions, you automatically think of top-level bars in big cities like Amsterdam, Brussels or Antwerp. In Diest, a small market town in the east of Belgium, you will find a restaurant called “De Nieuwe Haan” (“The New Rooster”). The owner’s son is Jules Verlinden. In the restaurant he works front of house, but his true passion is developing amazing cocktails. 

In 2019 I was part of the jury for the Amaro Montenegro BeLux cocktail competition. I was very happy to send Jules to the global finals in Italy with the ‘Monterinha’ cocktail. This weekend I visited the restaurant to taste ‘Victoria’, his entry for the Patrón Tequila Perfectionist cocktail competition. 

In cocktail competitions you need a combination of a delicious cocktail and a good entertaining story. The cocktail must be replicable in bars all around the world and the story needs to be a perfect match with the cocktail. Not just any fairy-tale will do. Jules matches the Victoria cocktail to the history of ‘Cinco de Mayo’. The holiday remembers the battle between Mexico and France. On May 5, 1862 the Mexican soldiers won the battle at Puebla from the much larger French troops. Jules used Mexican and French spirits in his drink and even the smoked salt on the rim reminds of the ashes on the battlefield. The name Victoria stands for Victory… and is also a hopeful reminder that the end of the current pandemic might be coming soon. In my opinion this is a solid match. 

The drink itself is a Margarita-style cocktail with added pear-flavors. It’s a bit more sophisticated than that because he uses lime cordial and infused spirits, but I just want to give you a general idea about the taste. What I love about all of Jules’ cocktails is that he creates drinks that give you a series of flavor experiences. 

In this drink you start with the earthy pear, followed by the Tequila with keeps going for a while. My only concern for this creation was the limited aroma in the nose, probably caused by the very large icecube in the serve. Jules agreed and will try to use a smaller cube for the competition. Since we’re still under corona-rules, the competition is completely remote and the cocktail will be prepared by another bartender, following Jules’ instructions. When the jury judges the drink itself, they will always judge on taste, aroma and presentation. 

We also tasted a few other original creations on the menu. He improved the Monterinha which now brings a pretty different experience with an eggwhite layer. But I was most amazed by his interpretation of the Mojito. This is a cocktail I normally don’t like at all. In most bars you get an awful sweet and sticky drink that you can hardly call a cocktail. It’s just sugar, rum and ice with a pinch of lime. Jules created a totally new drink, served as a Martini, reconstructed with all the flavors that should go in a Mojito. On the menu you will find versions with and without alcohol. I tasted both. This is next-level mixology. It was a very positive surprise. And you should see the faces of the customers when they get this serve instead of the “highball glass filled with crushed ice” they expect 😉 

In every bar I visit, I always order an Old Fashioned in their signature style. In this restaurant the Old Fashioned is not yet on the menu, because just like the Mojito, Jules wants to create a totally different interpretation of the Old Fashioned. The cocktail is still under development, but I got to taste it anyway. It was certainly different and packed with taste. I don’t want to give away too much just yet, but think of a very clean Japanese style cocktail. I’m still thinking how it can be further developed because it sure has potential. 

Extra tip when you want to visit Jules to sample a few cocktails. His father Dirk (actually an old friend of mine) is the owner and Chef of the restaurant. I highly recommend his cooking. After our tasting we enjoyed a great lobster and Chateaubriand dinner with a view at the bar where all the action was going on. 

Thanks Jules, we had a great evening.
Wishing you all of luck with the Patrón competition. 

Disclaimer : All pictures and texts are copyrighted by Geert Conard and Esito Management & Communications unless stated otherwise in the article. While some items might have been gifted by the producer or distributor, these are in no way paid promotions or recommendations.

donderdag 5 augustus 2021

Bohemian Mule


Let’s talk about the ‘mule’. A simple cocktail with only three ingredients : Spirit, lime and ginger beer. You can add a little bit of syrup if the citrus is too sour, but make sure to keep a good balance. Most often this type of drinks are served in a metal cup. You can mix this type of cocktail with your spirit of choice… I’ve seen them with Irish whiskey, Tennessee whiskey, Scotch whisky, Gin, Tequila, Rum… and of course the original spirit for this recipe, vodka. 

Since the day I’ve been served a Moscow Mule as ‘house cocktail’ in an Italian restaurant (I’m not kidding!!!), I find it hard to take this drink seriously. Totally wrong of course and yes, this is absolutely a great and refreshing cocktail. 

Today I’m mixing a variation on this recipe that’s less known, but absolutely delicious : The Bohemian Mule. This drink was created by Giovanni Burdi in London in the 90s. For me the best part of this drink is the fact that you have the choice to make it ‘low alcohol’ by selecting a bottle of Absinthe that’s a bit lighter. Normally I use Absente 55 as my go-to bottle for rinses, but for this drink I’m using the lighter Absente 26. I also played around with the recipe. The original recipe uses only 30ml of Absinthe and 8 ml of sugar… but they use rich syrup (2/1).  

Bohemian Mule

Ingredients
40 ml Absente 26
15 ml Fresh lime juice (=Juice of half a lime)
10 to 12 ml Simple syrup
Top with a good quality Ginger Beer

Method
Shake the Absente with lime juice and syrup in a shaker with lots of ice. Strain in your glass or cup with fresh icecubes. Top with Ginger Beer and give it just one more gentle stir. Garnish with lime and mint. 

Disclaimer : All pictures and texts are copyrighted by Geert Conard and Esito Management & Communications unless stated otherwise in the article. While some items might have been gifted by the producer or distributor, these are in no way paid promotions or recommendations.

dinsdag 3 augustus 2021

Hennessy Manhattan


The Manhattan is one of those classic cocktails that was a base for many variations. One of the more tasty variations is the French Manhattan. The recipe might look a bit odd at first, but you really need to give it a try. I have made this drink before with Remy Martin Cognac, this time I’m going for a special bottling of Hennessy. 

Hennessy Manhattan

Ingredients
45 ml Hennessy Cognac Limited Edition Felipe Pantone
45 ml Cinzano Sweet vermouth
10 ml Cointreau (if you want more cognac flavors try Cointreau Noir or Grand Marnier)
1 dash of Angostura Orange bitters

Method
Stir all ingredients together in a mixing glass with lots of ice. Strain in a prechilled coupe. Garnish with a sweet amarena cherry. 

Disclaimer : All pictures and texts are copyrighted by Geert Conard and Esito Management & Communications unless stated otherwise in the article. While some items might have been gifted by the producer or distributor, these are in no way paid promotions or recommendations.

maandag 2 augustus 2021

Can I use chocolate for garnish ?


Garnishes don’t always have to be a fancy cut of lemon or orange. In the past years I’ve seen many different garnishes even including pastry and sugar decoration. I’m leaning toward the Japanese principle that a garnish needs to add something to the drink. If it’s only decoration, you can skip it. Last weekend I mixed up two quick aperitifs, that both had a nice benefit from a chocolate garnish. 

The first drink was a bit obvious, X-Gin & Tonic, where X-Gin of course is a chocolate infused premium gin. I garnished this one with dark Madagascar chocolate 67,4% by The Chocolate Nation. This chocolate is made with premium cacao from the red island. Very intense taste with tones of raspberry, juniper, apricot and banana. The juniper really blends the chocolate to the G&T. 

The second drink is a dessert-style Old Fashioned. 

Banana & Chocolate

Ingredients
60 ml Bruichladdich The Classic Laddie
20 ml Giffard Banane du Brésil
2 dashes Nut bitters

Method
Let’s make it simple. Fill up your tumbler with ice cubes, add all ingredients and give it a good stir. Garnish with chocolate. I could have used the same chocolate because of the banana tones, but instead I picked Milk Chocolate “Power” 40,7% by The Chocolate Nation. This chocolate has a powerful core and creamy caramel tones that mix well with the whisky. 

Disclaimer : All pictures and texts are copyrighted by Geert Conard and Esito Management & Communications unless stated otherwise in the article. While some items might have been gifted by the producer or distributor, these are in no way paid promotions or recommendations.

vrijdag 23 juli 2021

The Belafonte


It’s a big, big world and bartenders all around the globe create fantastic drinks. And of course they have to be creative and think of a catchy name for their drinks. Sometimes it happens that there are multiple drinks around the world that share the same name. This is one of those, The Belafonte.

The Belafonte is bests known as a ‘Spritz’ cocktail. A refreshing mix of 1,5 cl Gin, 1,5 cl Simple syrup, 2 cl fino sherry, 2 cl lemon juice. Just mix everything together in a large wineglass with lots of ice. Top with 7,5 cl cold Prosecco. Garnish with a basil leaf. 

This is NOT the Belafonte I’m mixing up today. I’m sharing a very easy-to-make typical Italian bitter style highball aperitif with the same name. It’s actually a variation on the “White Port & Tonic” that’s popular in Portugal. 

The Belafonte

Ingredients
30 ml Campari
30 ml Graham’s Blend Nr.5 white Port
Tonic

Method
Add the Campari and Port to your longdrink or highball glass with icecubes. Stir to mix and top with tonic. Garnish with a dehydrated orange slice. 

Disclaimer : All pictures and texts are copyrighted by Geert Conard and Esito Management & Communications unless stated otherwise in the article. While some items might have been gifted by the producer or distributor, these are in no way paid promotions or recommendations.

dinsdag 20 juli 2021

Saint James VSOP Rum - Cocktail and cigar


Over the past years I’ve tried several brands of quality cigars, but my all-time favourite brand will always be the Cuban Romeo y Julieta, preferably the Short Churchill size. Last week I received a nice bottle of Saint James VSOP rum (43°) and the minute I opened the box, I wanted to pair it with a good cigar. So I jumped into my car and drove to one of my favourite spirit & cigar shops in my region, Huis Hardies in Mol.  

I picked up a few Romeo y Julieta cigars, but they were low stocked and didn’t have much choice in sizes. I had the salesguy advise me on some other brands that I didn’t really know. I ended up pairing my glass of rum with a CAO Pilón robusto extra (5x52).  

Nice to know : A “Pilón” is a layered stack of tobacco leaves that helps ferment the tobacco to maximize the flavor and color of the leaves.

Filler : Nicaragua
Binder : Nicaragua
Wrapper : Habano Ecuador

Very easy-smoking cigar that was just perfect in combination with slow sips of this rum. This cigars pairs very well with aged rum, but perhaps interesting to know for beer enthusiasts, it also pairs very well with a nice cool IPA beer. 

Of course I also wanted to use this rum in a cocktail. I always seem to have a problem with that. This is a very tasty aged rum that you really need to try neat. If you want to use it in a cocktail, don’t ruin it with too much juices and sugar etc. Rather just add some velvet sweetness and bitters and go for the Old Fashioned style. 

Saint James VSOP
Old Fashioned

Ingredients
60 ml Saint James VSOP Rum
15 ml Gonzalez Byass Nectar (PX Sherry)
1 dash of Cacao bitters

Method
Stir everything together with lots of ice. You can do this in a mixing glass or directly in your tumbler. Garnish with orange peel or a dehydrated orange slice. 

Disclaimer : All pictures and texts are copyrighted by Geert Conard and Esito Management & Communications unless stated otherwise in the article. While some items might have been gifted by the producer or distributor, these are in no way paid promotions or recommendations.

zondag 18 juli 2021

Adonis 1884

After a busy week you are craving for a tasty drink, but let’s be honest… sometimes you are really tired and don’t want to make too much fuss. 

The Adonis is a very old cocktail recipe that will always do the trick. For this drink you will find different recipes. The Difford’s Guide recipe calls for a 2/1 ratio, but if you have a good quality vermouth, you should at least also give it a try with a 50/50 ratio too. 

Adonis 1884

Ingredients
60 ml Tio Pepe Fino Sherry
30 ml La Copa sweet vermouth
2 dashes of Angostura Orange bitters

Method
Add everything to a mixing glass with lots of ice. Stir for 15 seconds and strain into a fancy wine or port glass. Garnish with a piece of orange peel… first give it a squeeze to spray some oils on the drink. 

P.S. I was out of fresh oranges, so had to use a dehydrated slice… nevertheless very tasty drink

Disclaimer : All pictures and texts are copyrighted by Geert Conard and Esito Management & Communications unless stated otherwise in the article. While some items might have been gifted by the producer or distributor, these are in no way paid promotions or recommendations.