Best buys | The Collector Vermouth

Best buys

The Collector Vermouth

Not only a candidate for drink of the week but drink of the year, this small-batch Somerset vermouth is one of the most delicious products I’ve come across in 2014.

It was created by the award-winning Ethicurean, a restaurant in a stunning walled garden in Wrington, just outside Bristol. They started making it for their own cocktails but were pressed to bottle it for general sale.

It’s based on plants that are grown in the garden including bay, rosemary, sage, wormwood and yarrow along with foraged ingredients from the surrounding Mendip Hills such as rowan berries and scots pine. The team, headed by mixologist Jack Adair Bevan, uses them to make tinctures using an apple-based spirit distilled from organic cider apples, then blends them with a homemade caramel made from English sugar and white wine from Malvasia grapes from the Veneto.

The flavour is unusually warm and rich - less bitter than many vermouths - like a gloriously alcoholic marmalade. You can drink it on its own over ice with a fresh bayleaf as I did when I had a sneak preview of it at the Wells Food Festival back in October or use it in cocktails. (It apparently makes a great Negroni* though I haven't had a chance to have a play, a mean Manhattan and a pine Martinez with pine-infused gin though I'd probably leave that one to Jack.)

They also cook with it at the restaurant though that seems a bit of a waste. I can imagine it would make a great match with Stilton cheese or, more locally, Dorset Blue Vinney.

The Collector costs £31.45 from The Whisky Exchange, £34 from the restaurant and around £38 from independent Bristol wine merchants such as Corks of Cotham and North Street, Weber & Trings and Grape and Grind. (See here for other stockists and bars which serve it) A lovely Christmas present for someone who appreciates quality drinks.

*Using less Campari than usual according to their Facebook page - 25ml good gin, 40ml The Collector Vermouth and 10ml Campari

For other last minute gift suggestions see here.

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