There was a time when dusty bottles of spirits were as coveted as a sausage past its sell-by date. Who knew they’d become the next big thing? Wine and the traditional aged spirits categories like cognac and whisky, yes; but gin circa 1950, liqueurs bottled in the 1920s or cordials that were around at the same time that John Lennon and Yoko Ono staged their Bed-In? Surely not.
Allow us to enlighten you. If your grandma’s drinks cabinet is home to an unopened bottle of the hard stuff that looks older than you feel, don’t snigger. Instead, ask nicely if you can take it off her hands as vintage spirits are bang on trend.
Edgar Harden knows that more than most. The former antiques dealer and wine expert at Christies and the Victoria and Albert Museum has been running his Old Spirits Company for the past four years. Not that he set out to be spreading the gospel according to the golden days of drinking; like most good things, his newfound niche was a happy accident. “A client asked me to do a full clear-out of his wine cellar and it included two cases of 1960s Gordon’s gin,” he explains. “When I eventually opened a bottle, I was blown away by the liquid inside – it had aged incredibly, the alcohol had come down a bit and there was this beautifully fresh citrus flavour,” he recalls fondly. “That was my double epiphany moment: being struck by how the gin had aged and how people didn’t appreciate these categories of vintage spirits.”
Harden gave or sold, he can’t remember which, the first of those bottles to Tony Conigliaro, one of the best bartenders in the country, if not the world. “He loved it. And the ball started rolling from there.” It wasn’t easy at first. “Back then only Salvatore Calabrese at that time at Salvatore at Fifty and Sukhinder Singh from Speciality Drinks were collecting,” he recalls. “And they were mostly interested in the dark spirits.” Fast forward 24 months and pretty much every drinks category with some history is getting a look in thanks to a growing band of forward-thinking bartenders on the quest for new adventures in drinks. Gins from companies that no longer exist; vodkas packed with feistiness and flavour; fruit, coffee and cream liqueurs, as well as perky vermouths that have aged to perfection – they’re all creating a stir.
Taken from Issue 6 of The Cocktail Lovers Magazine. To read the full article, see here.