4 cool comeback drinks
Maybe Granny was right when she said ‘if you keep it long enough it will come back into fashion’.
The high street is in the midst of a 90s revival, chicken kievs can be eaten without (too much) irony, and even the smartest bars are listing Lambrusco, Beaujolais and sherry. So why are these drinks that were once so desperately uncool enjoying a comeback? We spoke to Christina Schneider at Som Saa* to find out more.
“People are becoming more educated about what they eat and drink,” she says. “And more importantly, they want to be seen to be making those informed choices. It just doesn’t cut it any more to post a picture of a Pinot Grigio or Malbec on Instagram; it’s got to be something different, something undiscovered.” And it seems these ‘old fashioned’ drinks fit right into that category.
When the eighties were over, so too were the days for that bottle of Cinzano in the back of the drinks cabinet. But vermouth is back with a vengeance. For Ian Bayliss at Belsazar this is down to the huge amount of growth and interest in the aperitif category – “most likely off the back of the popularity of gin and the number of classic cocktails calling for vermouth”. This surge in popularity as a cocktail ingredient – particularly in the ubiquitous Negroni – has also increased its visibility as a product in its own right. Ian likes to keep it simple when enjoying a good quality vermouth: “Just mix 50ml Belsazar Rosé Vermouth, 100ml of good tonic water and garnish with a slice of pink grapefruit. Refreshing, balanced and full of flavour.”
Often dismissed as too sweet, customers who thought they knew Lambrusco are starting to discover what a delicious, versatile and high-quality category this can be. A lot of people still won’t order it from the list because of their preconceptions, but once they do try it, they’re pleasantly surprised. Brett Sutton from the White Post in Somerset recently held a cheese and wine evening which featured a Lambrusco. “It went down astorm,” he says. “Real bygone era stuff, but people really got it. I'm not sure it will be the go-to bottle when on a shelf among others, but it definitely struck a chord!
While the cheap, sweet sherry beloved of the proverbial grandma at Christmas is admittedly still in decline, it’s the premium end of the market that is showing signs of growth. With increased interest in high-quality fino, manzanilla and unfilterd en rama sherries, it’s wine lovers in particular that are driving this trend. Sid Singh from Kensington’s Romulo Café stocks La Ina Fino sherry and has been impressed with the response to it, particularly when it comes to food pairing. “It’s very dry, but very fruity at the same time,” he says. “It works well with lots of our dishes. For example we have a crispy squid, which is very crunchy, with a honey-glazed sauce – the fino goes very well with that.”
Much like Lambrusco, Beaujolais has suffered from an association with a cheaply-produced version of the product – the infamous Beaujolais Nouveau. Tasty and fun in the right context, it doesn’t compare to some of the exceptional-quality Beaujolais you can find today, which has more in common with good Burgundy than its bubble gum-flavoured cousin. Christina has memories of drinking Beaujolais Nouveau as a student in Saarbrucken, so was sceptical when her Bibendum Account Manager brought in a sample of Marcel Lapierre Morgon. But when she tried it she just had to list it. “This was a completely different style of Beaujolais,” she says. “Much less carbonic maceration and very Burgundian in style. Producers like Lapierre are doing wonders for the reputation of Beaujolais.” And when it comes to food matching, it’s great too. “Beaujolais has low tannin and relatively low alcohol, which works great with our menu of Thai food,” Christina says.