The Liquorists Belvedere Trail

9 Nov
When it comes to a night out with The Liquorists, you know you’re going to get an education. Good job really, as when it comes to booze, boy do I need one. Starting out early on the back streets of Bolton with a bottle of white lightning, like the majority of Britain, my meandering and oft ill-advised experiences with liquor and occasionally binge-y attitude to booze has left my knowledge (and palate) sorely wanting, but with aficionados like Tom and Jody around, no more.
 
From the cider and cheap wine of our youth (hello Concorde) to the more classy concoctions that could be achieved with a bottle of Taboo / Malibu / Martini, many of us had a brief flirtation with paint stripper styled spirits in our early twenties before happening upon the joys of wine. (White to break you in, red when you reach that certain level of ‘sophistication’). Then comes the day when you find your spirit. People start proclaiming ‘I’m a gin drinker’ and the like, thinking it means something about the person they are (absolute horse-shit) and believe their days of learning are complete.
 
It’s not, of course. Without getting too wanky, there is a shit-load of science behind your favourite sip, and when I realised rum was the drink for me, (I like spicy, earthy flavours and that’s the beginning and end of it), I started on a voyage of discovery. With long histories, numerous production methods, brand stories and myriad ways in which to express and enjoy each spirit, a lot goes in to producing and finding your favourite drink, with a lot of fun to be had in the process.*
 
One of the best ways to start out is by trying different brands, and for those lucky enough to be based in and around Manchester, The Liquorists run spirit trails which have you sample a shed-load of brands over the course of an evening, though of late have been running brand specific nights, allowing you to get well-acquainted with the back story and full booze catalogue of various spirit houses, with the latest do being a night dedicated to the infinite beauty of Belvedere.
 
Now, these days, in the age of  boutique distillers and super brands, you rarely hear people say they’re a vodka drinker. A seemingly dull choice when it comes to drinking shots and the base of many a sickly-sweet cocktail, I’ve avoided the spirit for years on account of putting too much of the cheaper stuff away at uni. However, with Smirnoff increasingly positioning themselves as the party brand, Grey Goose prolifically marketing themselves and Chase fast becoming the hipster tipple of choice, vodka is fighting hard to get back in vogue, with the super-premium Belvedere sitting right at the top of the tree.
 
For that reason alone, I’ve never tried it. In my spare time, I drink cider and am permanently welded to my well-worn skinny jeans, (for the most part because of the scoffing I do), so the thought of spending an evening trotting around Manchester’s most exclusive bars filled me with a small amount of dread, but in the name of learning (cough) and with the chance to taste the world’s first super-premium vodka, I took one for the team.
 
Made from rye, a hardy grain that yields a soft, vanilla-scented vodka with a creamy mouth-feel and taste, with Belvedere you experience none of the burn you come to expect from drinking vodka neat. Starting off with the pure Belvedere, the base vodka from which all of the Polish brand’s flavoured variants are based, this four-times distilled and three-times filtered spirit is one hell of an experience, making the super-expensive price tag that comes with such a super-premium drink sort of understandable.
 
Naturally kicking off our evening at The Lowry Hotel, (a swish location to match the swish drink), along with a sipping glass of the good stuff, we tried a classic Belvedere cocktail, comprising grapefruit juice and almond syrup; a bitter sweet, citrusy concoction that fizzed on account of the added tonic water. Paired perfectly with the passion fruit jellies we were provided, on account of the no hangover guarantee The Liquorists promise through feeding our bellies as well as our minds, we were off to an excellent start.

Belvedere Cocktail: Grapefruit Juice, Almon Syrup, Citrus Juice, Tonic Water

Next to 22 Redbank, home of The Liquorists, to be welcomed by the Belvedere Bloody Mary, an actual Bloody Mary and olives and chorizo to soak up the juices. Smelling and tasting exactly as you’d expect, with tomato notes and a peppery burn, you can tell Belvedere use macerations rather than essences to flavour the vodka, as the drink seriously packed a punch. I finally found myself converted to the soup like cocktail too, whilst being taught by Tom that said cocktail is the base of much bragging amongst bartenders, each claiming to have a ballsier Bloody Mary than the next. Jody’s kicked ass, FYI.

Belvedere Bloody Mary

On to Kosmonaut to try the Belvedere Citrus, a lemon and lime scented sipper bizarrely accompanied by a Mr Kipling Lemon Slice. (A brand alliance with legs, no?) Here we had my favourite cocktail of the night, making use of the lesser spotted rhubarb liqueur, grenadine and egg white. Lip smackingly good stuff. My favourite of the vodkas, however, was the Belvedere Pink Grapefruit, which we enjoyed at Épernay Champagne Bar. Not too sweet and with a hint of ginger, I could have happily gone on sipping the hard stuff over ice, but luckily made way for a Hemingway Royale, of grapefruit juice, Ayala champagne and maraschino cherry fame, made by the charming Joey Butcher.

Belvedere Citrus

Épernay Champagne Bar: Hemingway Royale

The most exciting drink of the night was the Belvedere Unfiltered. Sexily packaged in black, highlighting the famous Belvedere Castle in gold, the vodka tasted earthier, offering hints of black pepper and sea salt with a musky nose. Sadly, the vodka was lost in a cloying cocktail of overly macerated rosemary syrup and mint at our final destination, The Ski Club. The newest pop up in town from the guys behind The Yacht Club, overlooking the Spinningfields skating rink opening just in time for Christmas, they thankfully made up for it by providing fondue for fodder, which also helped prevent the super-premium hangover that was in the post.

The Ski Club: Fondue

Am I a convert to premium vodka? Absolutely. Can I afford it? Can I chuff. However, I will be splashing out for special occasions and putting Belvedere Pink Grapefruit in my letter to Santa. I’ll also never underestimate vodka again, nor be intimidated by the swankier Manchester establishments, where it turns out barmen are funny behind the flashy façade and you can totally get away with wearing your scruffy skinny jeans. See? An education.

* For the record, my favourite tipple is a dark and stormy – much like me after a night out. Boom-tish. (Sorry).

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One Response to “The Liquorists Belvedere Trail”

  1. helen November 10, 2012 at 12:48 am #

    Brilliant write up lovely. Killer. I had a great night. Personal favourite was the grapefruit vodka along with the Hemmingway Royale. mm mmm mmmm x

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