Rob and Jim, the Asterley Brothers, have created Dispense. ‘A modern British amaro’ is how they describe it. However, its roots are firmly Sicilian.
Having been invited to take part in the beta testing, Mark Andrews and I took two sample bottles down to Nate Brown, head mixologist, at Merchant House, a bar in the City near St Paul’s.
Obviously we tried it neat and enjoyed it immensely. But we asked Nate to conjure something up that would use the Asterley’s amaro as the star in a possible signature drink in combination with other ingredients.
First Nate did a twist on a traditional Club cocktail but using Asterley’s Dispense. It was a variation on a classic recipe that used a small measure of vermouth and a large measure of gin. In this case he reversed the roles and gave the amaro top billing. But in order that the gin wasn’t lost he used Cadenhead’s classic gin (50% ABV) giving much more flavour and a heavier juniper hit. To that he added yellow Chartreuse – very honeyed. Just 5ml. Then, a single dash each of Angostura and orange bitters. The finished drink was garnished with an olive, giving it an extra savoury edge. It tasted brilliant and played well to the chocolate notes in the amaro.
A ‘Merchant Club’ made with Asterley Brothers’ ‘Dispense’, Cadenhead’s Classic gin, yellow Chartreuse, Angostura and The Bitter Truth’s orange bitters and garnished with a single olive.
For our second drink Nate decided to avoid anything too obvious, so nothing classically red vermouth – he’d already done that with the ‘Merchant Club‘ (a name that we coined for the first drink). With this second drink he went towards something quite summery. Along with the chocolate there are quite a few green notes in the amaro and acknowledging these he plumped for a kind of Julep.
Taking a cue from a Jerry Thomas recipe for a Julep in which a ‘whisper’ of peach is used he took a spoonful of molasses sugar, some fresh mint, a few milliliters of Merlet’s Crème de Peche, a large measure of the amaro, a dash of bitters and a serious shake. He then finished it all off with a Somerset Cider Brandy drizzled over the top. In Nate’s words, “It’ll help on the nose and help with the initial taste that you get from the cup. It’ll be sweeter as opposed to anything overly bitter.”
A ‘Cider Julep’ made with molasses sugar, fresh mint, Crème de Peche, Asterley Brothers’ ‘Dispense’ and finished off with Somerset Cider Brandy
Both drinks were a delight. Any new entrant and particularly something out of the mainstream, is going to need a clutch of signature drinks from the simple to the complex to help people engage with the drink. We think these two make a great starting point. When Dispense becomes available you could try them at home but they’ll taste better at Merchant House.