Bottled cocktails are nothing new. Jerry Thomas, the godfather of bartending, wrote recipes for drinks to make ahead and enjoy on the go as far back as the 1860s. However, this year saw the concept take on new significance. Bartenders and brands have worked hard to deliver signature serves in a portable fashion and bring cutting edge booze to a socially distanced world. These, are some of the best.
The Botanist Gin Wild Cocktails – Buck & Birch
Most of us if pressed, say by a global pandemic closing all the bars, are able to crack open a bottle of Bourbon and turn out some serviceable Old Fashioneds. We’d be harder pressed however to whip up a tart sea buckthorn cordial or a herbaceous tincture of tansy and yarrow – which is the sort of thing you need to really drink like it’s 2020.
A good thing then that Scottish wild food specialists Buck & Birch have teamed up with The Botanist Islay dry gin to do the hard work for you. Each of their concoctions is infused with ingredients foraged around East Lothian. There’s the aperitif-y Amagroni which features their own Amarosa Rosehip Liqueur; the surprisingly tropical Plants or Quinccidence made with quince and pineapple weed; and the Ramble which is richly fruity with elderberries, elderflower, and the aforementioned yarrow and wild sea buckthorn. The collection of three bottles – providing two servings each – is available directly for £29.
Perfect for gin lovers and anyone needing a taste of the great outdoors during lockdown.
No.3 Vesper Martini – Selfridges
The description of this bottled Martini on Selfridges.com deftly avoids any mention of a certain hard-drinking, tuxedo wearing, occasionally invisible car driving, intelligence operative.
However, it’s no secret that the Vesper first appeared in Ian Fleming’s 1953 novel Casino Royale. James Bond’s original recipe reads well but is difficult to translate into a satisfying cocktail without a few tweaks. The best modern interpretation is served at DUKES Bar in Mayfair by Alessandro Palazzi who has collaborated with No.3 Gin to create a version you can enjoy at home.
The silky combination of No.3 London dry, vodka, and English vermouth doesn’t need to be shaken or stirred. Just leave a bottle and a couple of cocktail glasses in the freezer until absolutely glacial, then serve up with an orange twist for garnish. 50cl bottles are available directly from Selfridges for £35.99. Be sure to pour one out for Sean Connery – the original and still the best.
Category Defying Cans – Empirical Spirits
Founded in 2017 by veterans of the New Nordic Cuisine movement this Copenhagen distillery is testing the limits of what a spirit can be. They employ techniques used in the manufacture of sake, kombucha, and gin – among others – to create indefinable drinks that count Ryan ‘Mr Lyan’ Chetiyawardana and Matt Whiley of Scout in Hackney as fans.
It’s not unusual for the brand to release limited edition bottled cocktails but an accessible introduction to what they do can be found in the form of their ready-to-drink cans. These unique tinnies are built around beet molasses spirit, which is tastier than it sounds, and carbonated with Belgian Saison yeast. Can 01 is dry and elegant with grape-like gooseberry, birch, and softly tannic oolong tea. Can 02 lists sour cherry, blackcurrant buds, young pinecones, and walnut wood as ingredients.
It’s a light and spritzy pour that tastes of berries, lavender, almond, spruce, and generally like something from the future. You can get a mixed 4 pack direct from the source for €30 plus shipping.
Elevated classics from London’s best new bar – Tayēr
Monica Berg and Alex Kratena’s Old Street hangout Tayēr + Elementary just placed 5th on the prestigious World’s 50 Best Bars list. A huge achievement for a spot that only opened its doors last year that’s very well desered. Until such time as you can visit in person, a number of Tayēr favourites are available in handy 30cl bottles through their online off-licence for £30 a throw.
Highlights include a refreshing Bergamot Margarita made with blanco Tequila, Mezcal, Fino Sherry, and citrus cordial; and a cedarwood old fashioned based on Maker’s Mark Bourbon and house-aged aquavit. More additions to the LKDWN collection are hitting the site all the time so they’ve got you covered till we can all go out again.
Highballs in cans and that Old Fashioned – Hakwsmoor
The Full Fat Old Fashioned has been a mainstay at Hawksmoor for over a decade. Made by cooking butter and whiskey sous vide until absolutely ridiculous, the finished article remains creamy and tasting of really good butter without any residual oiliness.
Now, as part of the iconic steak chain’s at home offering you can get a bottle of the update Fuller Fat Old Fashioned to wash down your ribeye and bone marrow gravy. This version is made with brown butter and tonka bean and is really very silly. It comes in a 20cl portion for £14, or bundled with three other Hawksmoor creations for £48. Also well worth a look are the house canned cocktails including the 20/20 Cosmo (Beefeater, orange wine, raspberry, bitter orange).
Michelin Standard Cocktails – The Black Swan in Oldstead
Michelin Starred Chef Tommy Banks and his brother James of the Black Swan in Oldstead have added a number of ready-to-drink cocktails to their home delivery service.
Each one is made by the restaurant team with infusions, cordials, and distillates based on produce from their own gardens or else foraged on the North York Moors. They offer a couple of takes on the classic Negroni, featuring hedgerow exotica like elderberry schnapps, hogweed tincture, and the Black Swan’s own bitter herb liqueur that will do nicely before dinner.
Also unmissable is the Damson Sazerac, made with plum infused Cognac, fennel pollen, and juniper – just the thing to cut though the autumn fog. The smartly presented 50cl bottles start at £38 and ship nationwide. Would make great Christmas gifts, if you can get them to last that long.
London’s Best Whisky Highballs – The Proofing Room
The Proofing room is a buzzy cocktail bar in the basement of Milroy’s of Spitalfields – the second outpost of London’s finest whisky bar that opened on Commercial Street in 2019. In these locked down times the crew there have turned their talents to producing takeaway versions of their trademark highballs.
The Whisky 01comes in a star capped bottle that for £14 yields two servings of fizzy, goodness made with Aberfeldy 12-year-old single malt, pistachio, and soda. The likewise excellent Nikka Highball comprises fine Japanese whisky, peach, olive, and caraway scented Kummel and does so for £17. World class stuff and now shipping across the UK. Get involved.