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The Caterer

Manuka mania

10 August 2004 by
Manuka mania

Sam Jeveons is still on a high. The head bartender at Match, London, has just arrived back from participating in the Cocktail World Cup in Queenstown, New Zealand. Organised by Kiwi vodka brand, 42 Below, the competition, which included 31 bartenders from all over the world (see Caterer, 19 August, for a full report, and for the winner, see this week's Shorts), featured other activities - of the extreme sports nature. You know the kind of thing: bungee jumping, jet boating, white-water rafting. Kiwis love to play dangerously. Did Jeveons have a go? "Sure," he grins. "I jumped off the bungee, yodelling like Tarzan."

He has already immersed himself in new creations using the sponsor's spirit. In fact, his Spacific Martini - using 42 Below with Benedictine and three cocktail onions - has gone down in Match history and is now a permanent fixture on the menu. Not out of any arm-twisting loyalty, you understand; he really likes the stuff. And so do 350 other style bars around the UK.

I wasn't really sure what all the fuss was about until I tasted 42 Below's Feijoa vodka. Feijoa, for those of you who aren't familiar with New Zealand's flora and fauna, is a particularly pungent fruit. A kind of guava, it pretty much dominates anything you put it with. But flavour vodka with it, then mix it with apple juice and fresh limes, and you've got yourself a humdinger of a drink.

The passion fruit vodka is equally good. The Fa Fa Feni - the name given to Samoan first-born males who are ritually dressed as women - is a heavenly concoction of 42 Below passion fruit vodka mixed with apple juice, honey syrup, lime juice, a dash of grenadine and mint leaves.

But the earth really moved when I tried 42 Below's latest addition, Manuka Honey vodka. Honey fans will already know about manuka's health-giving properties; they keep it under the counter at my local health food shop, where it sells for £10 per small jar. "I reckon we're the biggest users of manuka honey in New Zealand," boasts 42 Below's Justin Bade, who is showing off the line-up at Match. "We might even get into beekeeping ourselves."

Served on the rocks, it's a force to be reckoned with. Added to muddled fresh pineapple, lime wedges and topped up with ginger beer, it's my favourite drink of the moment.

Unsurprisingly, the medals have come in thick and fast. Manuka Honey won a gold at this year's Salon International de L'Alimen- tation in Paris, and the straight vodka (at 42% abv, triple-distilled and filtered through charcoal) has won a string of awards, starting with second-equal in the world, voted by Class magazine in August 2000. That's not bad going for a vodka brand that began life in creator Geoff Ross's garage in Wellington. For more information go to www.42below.co.nz.

Shorts

Killer bee causes a buzz with world cup judges
The 42 Below Cocktail World Cup has to be the competition with the most spectacular setting in the world; it takes place on the mountain at Coronet Peak in Queenstown, New Zealand (see main story). Eleven teams from New Zealand, Australia, Canada and the UK, comprising 31 bartenders, participated in the event. The final shake-off was the decider, with the Aussies picking up the cup. Sebastian Raeburn (Ginger bar in Melbourne), Regan Touama (Bambu bar in Melbourne) and Ben Davidson (Arthouse in Sydney) wowed the judges with their signature drink, Killer Bee: muddle 30ml J„germeister with 10ml elderflower water and 20ml Monin Vanilla, before shaking with 45ml 42 Below Manuka Honey vodka and half a lime, one kaffir lime leaf and three slices of chilli.

New cocktail academy
Want to learn more about cocktails? Check out the Cocktail Academy, founded by Juha Kaskinen earlier this year in Archway, north London. Kaskinen set up the academy after ruling the roost at the Rivoli bar in the Ritz, and has teamed up with ex-QE2 bartender Mark Skidmore for the venture. The practical training facility covers more than 100 classic cocktails, plus training on wine, spirits, cigars, garnishes and presentation. Courses vary from two-day evening seminars to a six-week professional session. For more information contact 020 7281 7928 or info@cocktailacademy.co.uk.

Noblesse oblige for swedish spirit company The founder of the Swedish Liquor Company, Gus Anderson, is hoping to put fruit-flavoured spirits on the bartender's map with the launch of the Noblesse gin range. With three flavours so far - pear, lime and grapefruit - Anderson reckons this will be what drinkers want. "There's no doubt gin is gaining in popularity, but it's basically a boring sector and no one, except for us, is doing anything new," he claims. "The two citrus flavours are natural for gin, but we were amazed at how well the pear worked - it's a killer." To contact the company call 00 46 4097 1100, or log on at www.swedishliquor.com.

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