The mixologists favourite, a good vodka is the backbone of any home bar, so it’s important to make it one to remember for all the right reasons. Super versatile, vodka is delicious served chilled and drunk neat as the Russians do, over ice with a slice of lemon or in a wide variety of cocktails. As such, we think it’s about time vodka shakes off its reputation as a bland, flavourless spirit.You can expect a good vodka to have a creamy mouthfeel, a balance of citrus notes and pepper or spice, and a clean, smooth finish (it shouldn’t burn the throat). And that’s just for starters. Many factors, from location to infusions will add something special and unique to each given vodka.Potato, rye, and even old grape skins have been utilised to impart their specific flavours but arguably a good vodka needs an exceptional water source and only the purest and freshest will do.We’ve included brands with long, rich histories, to new emerging small batch producers creating amazing spirits in tiny distilleries and found vodka from across the world, including the most obvious Russia and Poland, as well as ones from much closer to home – even right here in the UK.From breakfast bloody marys through to late night espresso martinis, vodka is at the heart of a wide range of cocktails. So when testing our vodka selection, we tried all of them neat, before mixing up a few classic cocktails to see how they blended with other ingredients. Reyka vodka, 70cl, 40%: £26.95, Master of MaltMade from a blend of wheat and barley, Reyka claims to be the world’s first green vodka. It utilises Icelandic’s pure glacial water and is distilled in a coastal village with air so clean C02 levels are actually falling. It’s made in small batches and the distillery is powered by geothermal energy from underground volcanoes. So far, so trendy. But it turns out all of that stuff makes for really tasty vodka. Clean, peppery and with the faintest touch of aniseed, it’s particularly impressive given the price. Buy now Chapel Down chardonnay vodka, 70cl, 40%: £32, Chapel DownNot content with being one of the leading names in English winemaking, Chapel Down have turned their attention to spirits, adding both gin and this vodka to the range. Utilising the previous year’s harvest, the vodka is made with leftover grape skins and has the same fresh, zingy profile as we’ve come to expect from the brand’s wine. Light and smooth with subtle vanilla and citrus notes along with an aniseed finish, this would work in all the classic cocktails. They recommend it in a winemaker’s martini: one-part Chapel Down vodka, one-part vermouth, shaken and strained, garnished with a chilled olive and a frozen grape. If it all goes wrong you could just pour yourself a glass of their wine. Buy now Absolut vodka limited edition ‘drop’ bottle, 1L, 40%: £26.95, AmazonTravelling to anti-LGBT+ and racist protests around the world, Absolut collected ink from the hateful signs they encountered and used it in the artwork for this limited edition bottle. Each vessel contains a drop of ink within the mint and pink bottle design, turning something awful into a positive message of love in celebration of LGBT+ History Month. Inside you’ll find the same Absolut vodka we’ve come to expect from the Swedish brand. Rich, with a full mouthfeel and notes of grain and vanilla. Buy now Kavka vodka, 70cl, 40%: £37.51, The Drink ShopThis Polish rye and wheat based vodka draws inspiration from the production methods used in the 18th and 19th century, a period in which vodka tasted truly flavoursome – according to Kavka. The antithesis of a neutral spirit which was designed to blend into the background of drinks, this has had a small amount of aged apple and plum spirits added to the mix, which delivers welcome complexity. The bottle depicts a jackdaw or “kawka” which is also the phrase people used during the prohibition when popping out for an illicit drink. Buy now Zubrowka bison grass vodka, 70cl, 40%: £16, Waitrose & PartnersWith each bottle containing a single blade of handpicked bison grass, this Polish grain-based vodka has a smooth, clean flavour profile, with distinctive herbaceous and vanilla notes. Emitting a green-tinged hue, the most popular way of serving in Poland is with cloudy apple juice, a suggestion we’d heartily second if you’re in the mood for a long, sweet drink.Buy now Belvedere vodka, 70cl, 40%: £32.95, The Whiskey ExchangeYou’ll probably be familiar with this bar cart staple, a smooth, crisp and precise vodka which works well in a multitude of cocktails. Quadruple-distilled and made from one particular strain of rye, the hard-working spirit has a creamy mouthfeel and notes of vanilla and white pepper. Consistently good, it’s the perfect base for a martini, straight up or with espresso. Buy now Beluga noble summer vodka, 70cl, 40%: £42, Harvey NicholsThis Russian vodka has been given a makeover for summer, with a new art deco-inspired bottling. It’s still a relative newbie in the world of vodka, first being released back in 2002, but in that time it’s garnered a legion of fans. Using Siberian water, it’s triple filtered through quartz and silver before being left to rest for 30 days which allows the spirit to mellow and develop a smooth, honeyed finish. You want to drink this ice cold, preferably straight from the freezer with a twist of lemon peel or shaken up in summery cocktails. Buy now Mamont vodka, 70cl, 40%: £34, OcadoWith a bottle shaped to resemble a mammoth’s tusk, this really is one for pride of place in your drinks cabinet. Created with both Siberian water and wheat, it’s triple filtered through birch charcoal for a crystal clear, extra smooth finish. The thick, creamy mouthfeel gives way to hints of liquorice and a lovely sweetness, particularly when served super cold. Buy now Pur vodka, 70cl, 46%: £46.99, SelfridgesThis exciting new Canadian vodka is picking up awards left, right and centre – it’s won World's Best Vodka an impressive five times. It’s said the quality of the Canadian water is what’s to thank for the fresh notes of mint and warming spice of cinnamon and ginger. We enjoyed it in a canada mule, a twist on the classic cocktail, made with fresh ginger and maple syrup. Buy now Konik’s Tail vodka, 70cl, 40%: £33.45, The Whiskey ExchangeMade in small batches from a combination of spelt, rye and wheat, this Polish vodka gets its name from the Polish horse depicted on the bottle. Again, silver birch charcoal is used for filtration which results in a fresh and balanced spirit. Creamy butterscotch notes make this particularly good in dessert cocktails but a dose of warm spice and black pepper add complexity. Buy now Chase original potato vodka, 70cl, 40%: £37, Chase DistilleryWhen they’re not turning their spuds into Tyrell's crisps, the Chase team are creating award-winning vodka, all from their Herefordshire, family owned farm. Each bottle contains a whopping 250 potatoes, and there is an unmistakable hint of the humble veg on the nose but overall this is a very clean, fresh spirit, albeit one with a creamy mouthfeel. Try in a ginger & honey collins by mixing vodka, lemon juice and honey with cubed ice before topping with ginger ale.Buy now Ketel One vodka, 70cl, 40%: £20, AmazonIf the only way you’re interested in drinking vodka is shaken up in a cocktail then there’s no point spending a fortune. Ketel One is a dependable base for a plethora of cocktails, thanks to its clean, mineral nose and citrusy, black pepper notes on the palate. With over 300 years under their belt, the Dutch brand consistently delivers when it comes to affordable vodka. Buy now Grey Goose vodka, 70cl, 40%: £30, SainsburysDistilled and bottled in France, Grey Goose vodka is made with just two simple ingredients, wheat from Picardie in northern France and spring water from a limestone well in Cognac. There’s a reason this premium vodka is so popular. Oh-so-creamy, it’s a delight drunk neat when well chilled but equally blends seamlessly with ingredients – we’d recommend trying it in a classic gimlet. Buy now The verdict: VodkasGiven the price, we feel that the Reyka vodka really over delivers. Not only is it making use of Iceland’s natural resources in a unique way, but it’s also super smooth, versatile and delicious. Kavka are also one to watch if you’re interested in trading in your neutral spirit for a flavoursome, traditional vodka.
Found in artisan wine bars and at industry fairs, orange wines were once only available to indie producers and trendy restaurant goers alike. However, slowly that’s changing, with many supermarkets now stocking a version. But what exactly is it?Don’t be fooled, no oranges are involved in the making of this wine. Orange wine (sometimes called skin-contact wine) is made with white grapes and left to ferment with the skins and seeds, which gives the liquid the deeper colour and textural complexity. Think of it as the red wine version of a white wine. However, rather confusingly, orange wine can vary dramatically in colour too. From cloudy lemon to dark amber, it’s a low intervention style of wine-making that’s a world away from mainstream white wines. Although recently seeing a resurgence, this style of wine making dates back thousands of years, with Georgia being a particularly big player. However, these skin-contact wines can be found all around the world, as our roundup below shows. The taste can vary considerably but generally you can expect a slightly sour and more intense flavour profile – and we find it can be quite the room divider. For that reason, orange wines can be hard to come by, with many wine merchants avoiding the tricky explanations they need to sell it to their customers. Often they could be considered as flawed. So why would we touch them? For their incredible structure, intense aromas, high tannins for starters. While these wines tend to surprise if you’re not expecting them, they are always exciting.And it’s precisely these big, bold flavours that make orange wines so incredibly food friendly. Pair it with equally strong flavours that are normally a nightmare with wine – spicy nutty curries, Moroccan spices & tagines, dishes heavy on the garlic or mustard, mature cheese, you name it, orange wine can manage it. We’ve tried to include a range of price points below, but for now, orange wines can be more on the steeper side. If you’re new to this style of wine, perhaps start with one of the entry price points and work your way up if you’re a fan – which we're confident you will be.You can trust our independent reviews. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world testing and expert advice. This revenue helps to fund journalism across The Independent. Tblvino qvevris 2016, 12%: £60 for case of six, Marks & SpencerThis orange-tinted dry wine is made from white rkatsiteli grapes and aged in Qveri, a traditional Georgian clay vessel. Pairing well with full flavoured chicken curries, thanks to its rich, textural complexity, it’s one of the darker orange wines we put to the test. Aromatic stone fruit comes to the fore, with an underlying savoury spice element that makes this disappear extremely quickly. Georgia produces excellent quality orange wines and this is no exception. We couldn’t ask for a better example at this price.Buy now Savage Grace orange gewurztraminer, 12.5%: £17.49, The Fizz CompanyNamed after winemaker Michael Savage and his wife Grace Hearn, Savage Grace comes from organic vines in America’s Washington state. Light amber in colour, this dry gewurztraminer has all the wonderfully aromatic lychee you’d expect, along with a distinctly spiced, herbal undertone. Created using sustainable farming practices in extremely small quantities, with natural yeast and minimal sulphur, it’s also suitable for vegans.Buy now Cramele Recas orange natural wine, 12.5%: £6, AsdaThe largest winery in Romania, Cramele Recas, have made their orange wine with the local, organic grape varieties of feteasca alba, tamaioasa romaneasca, chardonnay and sauvignon blanc. These white grape skins have been left in contact with the juice for three weeks, in which time, complex flavours have developed which belie the price. Well structured with attractively fruity notes of pear and quince which provide freshness, this is a great introduction to orange wine if you’re new to the genre.Buy now Antonelli anteprima tonda, 2016: £24.95, JeroboamsSavoury, spicy and ever so moreish, this golden beauty dances with notes of lemon peel, plums and a touch of bitter almonds. Golden straw in colour, the wine is produced by one of the most renowned winemakers in Umbria, with 100 per cent trebbiano grapes. Well structured with refreshing acidity, it could be paired with a variety of red and white meat dishes, or equally drunk alone to enjoy its long, dry finish.Buy now Eschenhof Holzer invader orange, 2017, 12.5%: £19, WinebuyersMore wine bottles should have space invaders on the label in our opinion, however the contents doesn’t disappoint either. At just 22-years-old, Arnold Holzer took over the family vineyard and (perhaps unintentionally) left the skins on for a few weeks. Happily, it resulted in this wine with bite. Making waves in the Austrian wine scene, it’s unapologetically unusual, with a depth of earthy flavour, freshened up with orange peel and pepper. Try it with a spiced lamb dish or an equally earthy goats milk cheese with a similar tanginess.Buy now Renegade London wine bacchus on skins, 2017, 11.5%: £34, Harvey NicholsAlthough this wine is made under a railway arch in east London, the bacchus grapes themselves come from the Sixteen Ridges vineyard in Ledbury. Spending two months on skins, they’re treated to an extra four months in French oak during which time the sauvignon blanc-esque qualities will develop further, with floral, honeyed and herbaceous notes all being teased out. A big, memorable wine that’s worth the splurge.Buy now Le Soula la macération blanc no 16 vin de pays des Côtes Catalanes, 13.5%: £29.95, Berry Bros & RuddPredominantly made up of vermentino and macabeu grapes with just a touch of sauvignon blanc and malvoisie du roussillon, the biodynamic La Soula vineyard can be found in the foothills of the Pyrénées where the soil is poor and the climate extreme. As such the organic vineyard has to work hard, coming through with notes of aromatic apricot, orange skin and earl grey tea. Golden orange, it displays a wonderful minerality that lifts and refreshes.Buy now Remhoogte ‘free to be’ chenin blanc, 13%: £20.99, Wanderlust WineNot overly deep in colour, this hazy orange wine gets treated to two weeks skin contact before some time in oak where it matures before bottling. Fresh and smooth apricots and peaches pop out of the glass with notes of orange zest present on the palate. However, an underlying salinity and touch of spice keep this on the savoury side. For the price, we think it’s a real crowd-pleaser when it comes to skin-contact styles.Buy now Cullen Wines amber, 12.5%: £31, Bottle ApostleCulinary goddess Nigella Lawson is said to be a fan of this biodynamically produced orange wine, calling it “utterly fabulous” during a visit to Australia. Orange peel and honeysuckle come to the fore with an elegant minerality and structure. Deliciously complex, expect honeyed ripe oranges and a floral aroma backed up with grippy texture. Carbon neutral, the Cullen estate is naturally powered and one of the oldest and most awarded family wineries in western Australia’s famous Margaret River region.Buy now Litmus orange, 11%: £17.50, Harvey NicholsBased here in the UK, Litmus are another English wine producer using bacchus grapes to create their gorgeous orange wines. Or should that be pale gold? Notes of liquorice, creamy hazelnuts and honeyed almonds contrast with a fresh grassy, citrus quality with great acidity and a decadent long finish. This happily holds its own against fatty duck, and spicy Thai dishes.Buy now The verdict: Orange winesTaking into consideration, price, complexity and drinkability, we think Marks & Spencer have hit the nail on the head with their Georgian Tblvino qvevris. Even those new to orange wines will be won over.
Joseph Kim, from the Gold Coast, said he didn't taste anything at first but soon noticed something 'soft and tender'.
The independent coffee scene continues to boom, and with many of us conscious of the environmental impact of disposable cups we’re keener than ever to get in on the act at home. Whether you brew with a barista-worthy coffee machine, cafetiere, stovetop or good old drip-filter, you can grab yourself a piece of the coffee shop action with some great coffee and do your bit for the farmers and the planet.Independent, or “speciality” coffee differs from commercial coffee as it tends to be traceable and pays the farmer a fair price, while large brands sold in bulk may be driven by their bottom line leading to less favourable conditions for both the coffee and the growers.Thomas Haigh, Head of Tate coffee and Certified Q Grader (the highest certification in coffee requiring 22 sensory exams) runs the Tate roastery and sources coffee worldwide. “Better coffee comes through more direct trading; relationships between growers and roasters are key to sustainability and coffee is becoming increasingly more delicious as a result. But the industry is fragile: 80 per cent of the world’s production is grown by smallholders facing increasing challenges due to the climate crisis, migration, conflict and social inequity. Investing in these farmers’ coffee can contribute to the development and sustainability of these communities,” he says.As Thomas mentions, these coffees are traceable, so more information ont the packaging helps you determine what kind of cup to expect. Look for 100 per cent arabica beans, but there are varietal differences, details of provenance, processing method and roast level which alter the experience.Colombian coffee, for example, is often sweetly nutty, whereas Brazil’s sits the creamy, chocolatey end of the spectrum, but other factors can influence this.“Some people prefer syrupy natural processed coffees while others go for cleaner, washed processed coffee but it’s important to discover which coffees are right for you. Roast level will also impact the flavour, so if you like a brighter coffee err towards a lighter roast. For sweeter, rounder coffees try medium,” Thomas suggests.We tested 30 coffees to whittle down this shortlist and used different brewing methods over a month to see which made the grade. The final coffees were whole beans which we ground or ready-ground coffee. Each was brewed using filtered water, given the same brew time and coffee:water ratio and tasted as instructed by a Q Grader (skimmed for excess grounds then tasted black from a spoon using an aerated sip, like a wine). We were looking for fragrance, aroma, the taste profile and sustainability efforts from the brand. Put the kettle on and read on for our pick of the top of the coffee crops… You can trust our independent reviews. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world testing and expert advice. This revenue helps to fund journalism across The Independent. Lost Sheep Coffee, Sulawesi ~ Toraja coffee: £9.95 for 250g, Lost Sheep CoffeeLost Sheep Coffee won’t look at a coffee with fewer than 80 points on the scale. As a result, its coffees are fully traceable, farmers will have been paid fairly via the direct trading model and your chosen bean is probably going to be something quite special. All of Lost Sheep’s beans receive only a light roast to showcase their natural profiles, such as this Indonesian Sulawesi Toraja variety. Indonesian coffee is famous, though not usually lauded in the speciality coffee arena as it tends to be too savoury and strong. This, conversely, is like a tropical explosion of pineapple and mango – really. This is a remarkable cup of coffee: there is a startling amount of pineapple on the nose and the whole experience is sweetly fruity and fresh with an overall tropical vibe which should convince anyone into the benefits of a light roast. This is so unusual that it’s, probably, not for anyone looking for a run-of-the-mill cup, but we can’t get enough of it.Buy now Cafédirect, D. R. Congo ground coffee: £5.50 for 200g, WaitroseCafédirect invests over half of its profits back into farming communities and pays a premium for beans in order to drive positive environmental and social change. This particular coffee is sourced from the Muungano co-operative, situated in Eastern D.R. Congo – an emerging coffee growing region. Muungano translates as togetherness in Swahili, as this cooperative unites farmers of various ethnicities that were previously divided by the civil war and seeks to address gender equality (they run workshops on gender justice and recently elected two female farmers onto the board). This single origin arabica is a bourbon variety ( a sub variety of arabica), grown on lush volcanic soil which offers ideal conditions for growing sweet, bright, and complex coffee beans. The coffee is small-batch roasted in Cafédirect’s London Fields roastery and it boasts a full-on flavour with delicate acidity. We’d agree. We found it had a powerful heady aroma considering its light roast that went over to burnt butter, which they characterise as a honeycomb note. There is a very pleasant limey citrus finish which lifts this coffee to an elevated status. Pleasingly, its London Fields range is 100 per cent plastic free and packaged in kraft bags suitable for your home compost or food waste bin. Good news all round.Buy now Grind, house blend coffee and tin: £10 for 227g, GrindIf you’ve been to any of Grind’s London café-restaurant-cum-bars you’ll recognise the House Blend coffee as its go-to flat white or latte blend. Grind works with farmers across the globe, paying significantly more than the Fairtrade price to ensure quality can be maintained alongside being environmentally responsible and sustainable by investing in projects to improve the communities they rely on for their beans. Grind produces two coffee varieties, the house blend and the black blend, though other than being 100 per cent arabica, Grind does not give more information on the beans’ provenance, but says it works with a team of boutique importers to keep a consistent overall flavour profile, season to season. The house blend is roasted, ground and tasted daily at its converted Shoreditch warehouse ready for you to buy in its Instagrammable millennial pink tins. We found the house blend to be straightforward and crowd pleasing with a light, bright roast but perhaps a lack of interest for serious coffee buffs.Buy now Dear Green, Kenya tano ndogo ab: £10.75 for 250g, Dear GreenDear Green – a roastery taking its name from its Glasgow home, The Dear Green Place, roasts and supplies speciality coffee alongside training baristas and coffee lovers alike in sensory and technical classes.Ethical sourcing is a big focus, as is organic and Dear Green tries to visit every coffee farm to see that the beans are sourced fairly and sustainably with each smallholder. As with most truly ethical coffee brands, Dear Green pays over the odds for beans to encourage further sustainable agricultural methods and benefits for the coffee communities. Coffees are super seasonal and may only be on the site for a short while, so grab them while you can. We tried the Kenyan Tano Ndogo coffee, from a newly formed group of farmers from Gitwe, Kenya which has been awarded a cup score of 88.50/100, so this is a special one. Dear Green says there are fruity notes of guava and clementine, and often with things like this it’s just about detectable, but this coffee has an incredibly forward flavour of both in the initial hit and then in the aftertaste. We loved it, but it’s so lively and zippy with oranges that it could be a divisive one for others.Buy now Union, Bobolink Brazil coffee: £6.25 for 200g, UnionUnion began roasting in 2001 after its founders visited San Francisco and became set on bringing the same buzzing artisanal coffee scene to the UK. They gave up their day jobs as scientists and set about redressing some of the devastation faced by coffee farmers after the world commodity price dropped by sourcing coffee using a newly direct trading approach and paying a premium price allowing farmers to invest in their land and work. Today, Union works across 14 countries to source impeccable small batches of coffee – blends, single origins or unique microlots – to be roasted in its east London roastery by roastmasters keen to show off each bean to its best ability.We tested the Bobolink Brazil which is reported to be a favourite at the roastery. Union says it’s “beautifully smooth with a rich aftertaste that lasts and lasts” and we’re minded to agree; it’s exceptionally creamy with a noticeably rounded mouthfeel thanks to a macadamia note. Some ever-popular milk chocolate hues thrown into the mix, plus its lightness mean that most people would enjoy this coffee.Union should be commended for its environmental efforts too: coffee chaff (husks) is recycled into bedding for barista-milk producing cattle, coffee grounds become bio-fuel and it has invested in a single burner roaster which cuts energy consumption by 80 per cent and is smoke-free. Impressive stuff.Buy now Revolver World, Honduras fairtrade and organic coffee: £3.99 for 200g, Revolver WorldThis multinational co‐operative aims to maximise opportunities and income for producers and members alongside campaigning on human rights issues and supporting NGO’s. A quarter of profits are reinvested into producer communities, such as the two Honduran cooperatives who produce this coffee from its base near to the country’s highest mountain, Cerro Las Minas.Both cooperatives are committed to growing sustainable and organic coffee in a way that benefits their communities and families – one has recently built a library for the farming neighbourhood and a sports centre and playing fields are in progress. Revolver World don’t do coffee blends, preferring to showcase cooperatives’ efforts through individual country instead: all are 100 per cent arabica and organic, you just need to choose whether you’d like your coffee from Costa Rica, Cuba, Ethopia, Peru, the list goes on. We really liked this Honduras coffee, which is billed as a medium bodied number with mild acidity and distinctive caramel and apricot flavours. This is a wake you up coffee if we ever saw one; we found an overriding and delicious taste of dark caramel finished with French apricot tart. This coffee is one of the only ones to deliver a buzz after one cup, if you like that kind of thing. We do.Buy now Pact, house coffee: £7.99 for 250g, PactPact offers subscription based or one-off purchases of coffee from a roster of beans that have been awarded an international Coffee Quality Score of 80 or above. Pact, like other good guys, invests fully in the direct trade model in an effort to be a positive force: going straight to the source of the beans, paying above the Fairtrade rate and supporting farmers with ongoing investments and training with the goal of improving local economies and benefitting communities.This house coffee of mixed arabica from South and Central America, goes through rigorous standards of green coffee sorting and includes smaller beans than most buyers would usually pay for; meaning the farmer achieves a higher price for the yield. These beans are grouped, blended and roasted at the HQ in Bermondsey to achieve a consistently high flavour profile which Pact says is “toffee-like with rich cocoa and mild acidity”. On tasting, we were surprised this wasn’t an espresso-specific blend as there is a very intensely sweet chocolatey aroma that turns into a reassuring bitterness once on the palate. It would make a fabulous espresso regardless or we’re equally happy to drink it long and black.Buy now Eat Your Hat, zesty monkey ground coffee: £5.90 for 200g, Eat Your HatThis brand is all about sustainably-grown, organic and ethically traded chocolate and coffee, with a big emphasis on soil health and caring for the environment; almost everything it makes is recyclable and compostable. The coffee beans are sourced from smallholder farmers across the world, are all pesticide, fertiliser and toxin-free with the aim of making the purest cup of coffee possible. Eat Your Hat currently has five coffee varieties available, all of which are graded 80 points or above on the standard 100-point scale. We plumped for the zesty monkey ground above others, sold by its claims of caramel, citrus and apricot aromas and found it was dangerously easy-drinking. We liked the subtle lemon and lime notes with a silky caramel backdrop just before it turns to burnt toffee.Buy now Paddy & Scott’s, jerry can coffee: £5.49 for 227g, Paddy & Scott’sThe jerry can is the brand’s flagship coffee, so-called because Kenyan children in the coffee communities carried jerry cans of water along a busy road to school. Paddy & Scott's work in farming regions funded a fresh-water pipeline allowing children to swap the jerry cans for the classroom and today has its own coffee farm where it works with a local Meru family to cut out any middle-men and give more profit back to the coffee-growing community.The Meru Farm coffee arrives at the Suffolk roastery for a series of expert roasts and taste tests before being delivered fresh to homes, businesses and starry events. On the nose, this coffee smells like some kind of deeply fruited cake – almost Christmassy. There’s a faint smokiness but the medium roast means that some dark fruit elements can still be found flavour-wise as a good compromise. Buy now Roasting Plant, Ethiopian reserve coffee: £12.50 for 250g, Roasting PlantBringing the coffee culture of NYC over to Borough Market and beyond, Roasting Plant has a high tech set-up, using its “javabot” machine which roasts and grinds beans at calculated conditions, tailored to each varietal. Beans are hand sourced from small farms across the coffee communities – which are then delivered to your door. There’s a constantly changing seasonal array of beans, but we settled on a stunning Ethiopian reserve blend. Known as the birthplace of arabica, Ethiopia’s coffee is diverse and until recently Ethiopian smallholders were required to be sold through the Ethiopian Commodity Exchange which meant quality and traceability were lost. Reform in 2017 meant farmers could separate their top lots, improving quality and achieving higher prices for their goods. This particular variety hails from the Yirgacheffe forests which is characterised by a floral, creamy coffee with clear acidity. Roasting Plant says this bean has notes of stone fruit, with cacao and floral notes and a smooth mouthfeel; we loved the unique fruity floral mix and noticed a healthy whack of chocolate and a sweet light citrus too.Buy now Coaltown Coffee, pit prop No. 1 signature blend: £7.50 for 227g, Coaltown CoffeeCoaltown Coffee was born from a desire to restore a former Welsh mining town to its industrial glory after the last colliery closed in 2003, causing extensive unemployment. Since then a roastery and academy was was set up to help bring locals into coffee culture and possibly a new career path. Coaltown exclusively deals with specialty coffee and focus on sustainable and transparent trade with small farms from across the coffee growing regions of the world. The resulting crops are hand-roasted in small batches using timing and temperature to drawing out personality and complexity from each coffee. Coaltown offers a range of interesting blends, single origins and subscription based packages, but we were drawn to the signature coffee, pit prop no1. It’s an espresso blend of Nicaraguan, Guatemalan and Sumatran arabica that has already bagged a Great Taste Award thanks to its deep, dark chocolate orange flavours. Coaltown says this is for coffee fans who enjoy new flavours and though it wasn’t the most out-there of the coffees we tried in this test, we noted how luxurious it felt. The profile is darkly sweet, smokey and savoury making it a persuasive double shot, but we particularly enjoyed the tobacco note which is prominent with a satisfying tang.Buy now Common Coffee, birght: £9 for 250g, Common CoffeeCommon Coffee was started by a group of festival-loving entrepreneurs with a penchant for coffee. After travelling the country serving up coffee and nitro-cocktails at events, Common began its own roastery out of Edinburgh with the expertise of a self-taught coffee roaster, taster and profiler. It now produces four coffee varieties, sold by their overriding profile: strong, sweet, bright and complex. We really like the bright roast, which is made using a washed red bourbon arabica from the Kayanza region of Burundi and grown by a smallholder who sun-dries the coffee on raised African beds. Common says it tastes like cherry, mandarin and honey and we do get the cherry notes along with a definite citrus feel, though it feels more like grapefruit to us – plus a nice hum of something floral and heady. It’s an excellent coffee and one we’d very much like to drink again. It’s also worth knowing that Common’s packaging is omnidegrabable, so bags and labels are fully compostable and biodegradable in any environment – water, compost or landfill. Buy now The verdict: Independent coffee brandsCoffee is such a personal choice, but for us, any coffee lover would do well to try Lost Sheep’s Sulawesi ~ Toraja as the beans really do have a tropical personality all of their own. We feel the same way about Dear Green’s deliciously aromatic Kenyan number; both have a seriously unique profile that coffee nerds will enjoy but Lost Sheep’s is more pocket-friendly. For an every day cup, we’d turn to Cafédirect’s D.R. Congo which is handily in Waitrose, but for an enlivening espresso we’ll take Pact’s house coffee.
Who doesn’t love a cocktail? Whether it’s a jug of Pimm’s at your summer barbecue, an after dinner martini garnished with an all-important olive, or a retro snowball at Christmas, there’s a drink for every occasion.And the market is certainly booming, especially with the continued rise in popularity of gin, plus a renewed interest in spirits such as vermouth and Campari (negroni, we’re looking at you!).Recent consumer shifts towards more health-conscious lifestyles have seen an increased demand for lower alcohol or alcohol-free beverages, and in turn it’s not uncommon to be offered shrubs (drinking vinegars), kombucha or alcohol-free spirits such as Seedlip in lieu of boozier counterparts in bars.Cocktails needn’t remain the trusted secrets of bartenders, either; whether you like yours shaken, stirred, boozy or healthy, the following books have you covered. Bottoms up!You can trust our independent reviews. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world testing and expert advice. This revenue helps to fund journalism across The Independent. ‘A Mixologist’s Guide to Making Cocktails' by Jordan Spence, published by Carlton Books: £6.95, AmazonPart of the appeal of a cocktail, aside from its delicious taste, lies in its appearance – and this no-nonsense guide illustrates each recipe with a wonderfully-straightforward at-a-glance diagram which handily details precise components and proportions for each drink. What’s more, thanks to these articulate and colourful diagrams – which take up the majority of the page – recipes are so concisely written they’re often no longer than a sentence or two, making it an easily accessible, even if you’ve had a few!Whether you’re a vodka, gin, brandy, rum, whisky, tequila, champagne or liqueur enthusiast, there are aperitifs for every taste, handily divided into chapters for each spirit. There’s also a section dedicated to shots at the back, covering everything from Alabama slammers to slippery nipples, if short drinks are more your thing.Buy now ‘Fever-Tree – The Art of Mixing’ by Fever-Tree Limited, published by Mitchell Beazley: £10.60, WorderyUtter the words "Fever-Tree" and thoughts of a refreshing gin and tonic are bound to swiftly follow. The popular premium mixer is now stocked in bars and restaurants around the world, and this 224-page guide to long drinks and cocktails features more than 125 recipes from some of the world’s best bars and bartenders. Recipes are refreshingly straightforward and chapters are divided according to the type of mixer you intend to use: from quinine-heavy tonic water to ginger ale, floral and fruity cordials and botanical-inspired mixers. Look out for the rising sun fizz from London’s City Social – a riot of yuzu, lemon and whisky. The book is nicely compact, with fetching gold embossing on brown paper – one to keep out on the coffee table or liquor trolley.Buy now ‘Fizz' by Olly Smith, published by Ebury Press: £12.99, WaterstonesAward-winning wine writer and broadcaster Olly Smith certainly knows his tipples; on top of being a regular wine expert on BBC1’s Saturday Kitchen, he regularly appears on BBC Radio 2, presents his own podcast, A Glass With, and has scooped up an impressive number of awards and accolades to boot. And his new book, Fizz, is positively buzzing with enthusiasm and energy for all things bubbly.It features over 80 cocktail and mocktail recipes, and each one comes with a handy icon denoting the type of glass it should be served in. There are ample options for the non-drinkers too, all clearly marked booze-free; the bees crumble (featuring freshly-squeezed rhubarb and Granny Smith apple juice) and ginger kombucha are ones to savour in particular.Buy now ‘Redemption Bar – Alcoholic-Free Cocktails with Benefits' by Andrea Waters & Catherine Salway, published by Kyle Books: £8.57, AmazonWith chapters divided into: classics, martinis, mojitos, long drinks and fizz, you’d be forgiven for thinking this was a regular guide to cocktail making. From the brains behind London’s popular Redemption Bar group, this book is a tasty tour de force of all things non-alcoholic – plus there’s recipes for canapés, too. Many of the most popular intoxicants served at Redemption Bar have made it into the book, including the apple mockjito, fro-co-rita and the flu fighters martini, alongside some new inventions. Recipes include detailed introductions explaining the inventive and experimental cocktails and their health benefits, and the accompanying photography is luscious and seductive, enough to make anyone forgo the booze.Buy now 'Around The World in 80 Cocktails' by Chad Parkhill, published by Hardie Grant: £9.35, WHSmithCocktails are synonymous with holidays – so how about a book that combines the two? On top of detailing how to make 80 delicious brews, this colourfully-illustrated guide also describes the history of the respective concoctions, as well as fun facts about the countries where they originate. Around The World In 80 Cocktails features all of the classics you’d expect, from Ernest Hemingway’s much-loved daiquiri to New York’s manhatten and Lima’s pisco sours, as well as lesser-known gems such as a stone crush from Iceland.Buy now ‘Tequila Mockingbird' by Tim Federle, published by Running Press: £6.83, AmazonThis one’s for the literature lovers out there. While Tequila Mockingbird is not a new release – it was first published in 2013 – it’s nonetheless one that deserves returning to time and time again, just like a favourite novel. Offering "cocktails with a literary twist", this book is as much a celebration of some of history’s classic works of literature as the classic drinks themselves. It’s packed with puns – One Flew Over The Cosmo’s Nest, anyone? – but there’s substance among the wit too, as demonstrated in the detailed introduction, glossary and recipes.Buy now ‘Free The Tipple: Kickass Cocktails Inspired by Iconic Women' by Jennifer Croll, published by Prestel: £7.19, WHSmithWhat do Frida Kahlo, Beyoncé, Margaret Atwood and Simone de Beauvoir all have in common? On top of being inspiring and influential women, they each have a cocktail dedicated to them in Free The Tipple. Bright, vibrant and fun, this entertaining book features some seriously impressive and colourful portraits of some of the world’s most iconic women, alongside the recipes for the beverages inspired by them. Each recipe also comes with a short biography of each featured muse, as well as a description of how the creation suits their respective personalities – makes for a nice read when sipping on your chosen tipple.Buy now 'The Cocktail Guy – Infusions, Distillations and Innovative Combinations' by Rich Woods, published by Pavilion Books: £12.10, AmazonThis is just the book for anyone looking to take their mixology skills to the next level – and to learn a secret or two from award-winning bartender Rich Woods. On top of shaking and straining ingredients and cocktails, this informative book also covers techniques such as infusing, clarifying, dehydrating and sous vide – certainly things to impress the guests. For budding distillers, there’s a chapter at the back which covers infusions such as coriander gin, beetroot and chocolate liqueur and bay and vanilla vodka – yum! Don’t be put off by the adventurous nature of this book; each recipe is clearly labelled with preparation and mixing time, plus a difficulty rating.Buy now ‘The Modern Cocktail: Innovation + Flavour' by Matt Whiley, published by Jacqui Small: £25, FoylesIn this beautifully-photographed 224-page compendium, bartender Matt While – AKA The Talented Mr Fox – provides an almost scientific approach, breaking down to practically DNA-level – looking at everything from flavour profile to the provenance of ingredients.Recipes are fun and inventive and there are some curious yet classy takes on classics, including a monster munch gibson, which comprises gin, spring onion and a homemade monster munch-infused vermouth!Buy now ‘The Healthy Hedonist: 40 Naughty but Nourishing Cocktails' by Nicole Herft, published by Kyle Books: £9.99, WHSmithLike the sound of a book that turns your alcohol consumption into an opportunity to imbibe some of your five-a-day? Look no further than The Healthy Hedonist, which does just what it says on the book jacket. In this creative book, author Nicole Herft provides alternative suggestions to the often-used sugary syrups, in turn replacing them with superfoods. With recipes such as peach and chia bellini, kombucha Pimm’s punch, kale and pineapple daiquiri and kefir mango lassi, Nicole shows that it is possible to enjoy a cocktail, guilt on the side.Buy now The verdict: Cocktail recipe booksFor an overall survey of the classics, A Mixologist’s Guide to Making Cocktails is a recommended go-to, especially thanks to its handy drawings which detail parts and measurements. Special mention needs to go to Free The Tipple: Kickass Cocktails Inspired by Iconic Women for its colourful illustrations and inventive libations, while Fever-Tree – The Art of Mixing is a must-have for any gin lover.
Rosé started off as a wine you might sample when you were in the South of France. It went with the blue skies and endless sun. Back in the rain-lashed UK the only rosé you were likely to encounter came from Portugal in a funny-shaped bottle and tended to be slightly sweet and slightly sparkling.But things have changed. Britain’s now experiencing the sort of weather most of us went to the Mediterranean to find and sales of rosé wines have risen as consumers discover that it’s the ideal accompaniment to an al fresco meal or a long summer’s day.And now it’s not only Provence where you can find excellent rosés. Europe, Spain, Italy, Germany and even the UK produce some first-class wines, while further afield, South Africa, Chile, Australia and New Zealand have all got in on the act.So, put your feet up, say hello to Mr Blue Sky and pour yourself a glass of liquid sunshine. Lalomba de Ramón Bilbao rosado 2018, 75cl, 13%: £23.50, Great Western WineFrom mature garnacha (grenache) vines planted on the Lalomba hillside, 700 metres above sea level on stony clay and limestone soils in the Rioja Alta region of Spain comes what Ramón Bilbao consider to be the jewel in their crown. “Rosés should just be as expressive of their provenance as reds and whites,” says chief winemaker Rodolfo Bastida and this pale blush rosé made from only perfect, hand-picked berries is exactly that. Orchard and red fruit flavours are tempered by mineral notes and an elegant acidity in a wine that’s as perfect as a sunny Spanish evening.Buy now Miguel Torres Las Mulas cabernet sauvignon organic rosé 2018, 75cl, 13%: £9.39, WaitroseA certified organic and vegan rosé from the Torres family of Chile, who make wine using traditional methods without herbicides or pesticides. Produced from cabernet sauvignon grapes grown in the Rapel region of the country’s Central Valley, it’s a dry wine for those who like big flavours. Lots of intense cherry and red berries on the palate with a pleasing but not too overwhelming acidity.Buy now Barone Ricasoli Albia rosé toscano 2017, 75cl, 13.5%: £14.99, FlagshipFrom a Tuscan family famous for its chianti, whose links to the wine trade date back to the 12th century comes a beautifully pale and fragrant rosé made from a blend of sangiovese and merlot. An initial sip brings strawberries, cherry and red fruits to the tongue, balanced with a pleasing minerality and a lasting finish. One to be enjoyed lightly chilled with any classic Italian dish.Buy now Rustenberg stellenbosch petit rerdot rosé 2018, 75cl, 13.5%: £8.99, WaitroseThe Rustenberg Estate in the valley of the Simonsberg Mountain in South Africa’s premium Stellenbosch wine region was established in 1682. But it was in the 1940s that the Barlow family took it over and established an outstanding portfolio of wines. One of the newer additions is this rosé made from the small-berried and thick-skinned petit verdot grape. Bright pink in colour with strawberry and cherry flavours come to the fore, making it the ideal accompaniment to a summer barbecue.Buy now Simpsons Railway Hill rosé 2018, 75cl, 12.5%: £19, RobersonBefore you do anything else, just admire the bottle. A beautiful club-shaped vision of blushing rosé loveliness with an exquisite glass stopper. And, happily after that build up the wine doesn’t disappoint. An English rosé from the North Downs of Kent, it’s crisp, bright and fruity with notes of peach and stone fruits and a balanced but delicate allure. Summer was made for wines like this.Buy now Proudly Vegan Chile Valle Central rosé 2018, 75cl, 12%: £6.99 OcadoFrom the UK-based Broadland Wineries comes a Chilean wine that’s not afraid to boast about its main selling point – a rosé so vegan that even the printing ink and the label glue have no animal-related products in them. What you get is a soft and well-balanced wine with plenty of fruity flavour – all plum and red berries – which could partner baked vegetables, a quinoa salad or a simple olive crostini.Buy now Waitrose Côtes de Provence rosé 2018, 75cl, 12.5%: £9.99, WaitroseFrom their Blueprint range of wines, here’s a Waitrose product that does exactly what it says on the tin, or in this case, label – ie, delivers an impressive rosé from the French region that’s the established and spiritual home of this summer staple. Chock-a-block with cherry and red fruit flavours, it’s a blend of cinsault and grenache grapes and was made to enjoy with a salad niçoise.Buy now Bird in Hand pinot noir rosé 2018, 75cl, 12%: £14.25, FrontierOne of a range of limited release wines from an Australian winery built by the Nugent family on the site of an old gold mine in South Australia’s Adelaide Hills. The pinot noir grapes were picked during the coolest part of the day. They were then destemmed and spent up four hours on skins, before being tank fermented, giving the wine it’s delicate blush hue. Strawberry and soft fruit flavours along with floral notes make it an ideal outdoor aperitif or an accompaniment to a picnic lunch.Buy now Adnams marlborough rosé 2016, 75cl: 9.5%, £8.99, AdnamsThe grapes for this blush rosé, produced for Adnams in New Zealand by WineWorks, were picked slightly earlier than usual, so that wine has a more modest 9.5% ABV compared with similar wines. That doesn’t detract from the taste, though, as winemaker John Forrest has made sure that the red fruit and elderflower flavour, balanced by a pleasant acidity, is as potent as ever. Fine to drink on its own or with light salads.Buy now El Coto rosado 2018, 75cl, 13%: £4.39, VinissimusThis won’t break the bank and for under a fiver you get a good everyday Spanish rosé made from grenache and tempranillo grapes grown in Spain’s Rioja Alavesa region. Pink and colourful in the glass, it has plenty of upfront red fruit and red berry flavours and a fresh acidity. Enjoy it on its own as a summer aperitif or as an accompaniment to light fish or rice dishes.Buy now Coteaux Varois en Provence rosé 2017, 75cl, 12.5%: £9 (£54 for a case of six), Marks & SpencersFrom the Provençal region of Var, this is a light but fruity rosé made from grenache, cinsault and syrah grapes, with a dash of mourvèdre and carignan added to the blend too. There are red fruit and strawberries on the palate with floral hints and an acidity that’s balanced without being overpowering. Like many rosés it’s not a wine to be kept for too long and needs to be consumed within 12 months.Buy now London Cru Rosaville Rd pinot noir rosé 2018, 75cl, 12%: £15, RobersonFrom London’s first ever winery, launched six years ago by Cliff Roberson, comes a succulent pinot noir rosé made from grapes grown in a Surrey vineyard. Some 90 per cent of the wine was fermented and aged in stainless steel tanks while the rest was put in oak barrels resulting in a creamy yet delicate wine with a citrus aroma and notes of red fruit and strawberries. Best enjoyed young as a superb aperitif or to complement light salad dishes.Buy now Mas de Cadenet Côtes de Provence Sainte Victoire rosé 2018, 75cl, 12% : £16.20, TannicoOne for art lovers, since the grapes for this very more-ish rosé were picked in a vineyard at the base of Sainte Victoire, the mountain that famously features in many of Cézanne’s landscapes. Now a recognised sub-appellation of the Côtes de Provence AOC, it’s home to some of the region’s finest rosés. Made from 45 per cent grenache, 45 per cent cinsault and 10 per cent syrah, it had a slightly more balanced texture and a lengthier fruit-filled finish than other Provençal rosés, thanks to the mountain’s micro climate and notable terroir.Buy now Villa Wolf pinot noir rosé 2017, 75cl, 12%: £9.90, The Bottle ClubA German rosé from the well-established Villa Wolf winery in Pfalz, Germany’s second largest wine-growing area, where the sunny and equable conditions resemble Tuscany. As a result, it’s an ideal location for all varieties of pinot grapes and this lovely pink-hued rosé is light, crisp, full of red fruit flavour and an ideal accompaniment to al fresco lunches or meals. It’s great value, too, at under £10.Buy now Château des Muraires Séduction Côtes de Provence rosé 2018, 75cl, 13%: £16.99, Laithwaite’sThis is a seduction that starts with the colour – the most wonderful pale rosé – and continues with that sniff of perfumed Provençal promise that’s released as it’s poured into the glass. Winemaker Bernard Magrez’s Provençal estate, mid-way between Nice and Aix-en-Provence may be small - only 1.3 hectares – but it produces some outstanding wines including this blend of grenache, cinsault, syrah and the local rolle grape. There are strawberries and red berries in each sip plus a deft acidity that makes the wine an ideal partner for any Mediterranean fish dish.Buy now The verdict: Rosé winesWines such as Simpsons Railway Hill rosé from the UK or the Bird in Hand pinot noir rosé from Australia are worthy contenders. But if you really want to splash out, go for the best buy, Lalomba de Ramón Bilbao Rosado, a Spanish wine that's everything a magnificent rosé should be – fruity, mouth-watering, refreshing and satisfying. Summer wouldn't be the same without it.
Eid-ul-Fitr, not only in India, but all over the world is not just celebrated as a ‘fast-breaking ceremony’. Mouthwatering and scrumptious dishes are prepared and distributed among friends and family, as a token of love and shared bond. The highlight of this festival is its luscious and flavorful dishes.
If your experience with tequila so far has been with a wedge of lime and a lick of salt – stop what you’re doing and think again.Tequila may feel like a pretty stiff drink to serve neat, however, with an average 40% ABV, it’s no stronger than other sipping spirits, like, whisky.If that’s a step too far for now, try it in a cocktail – you can’t go wrong with a refreshing margarita.Made from the juice of the blue agave plant which takes at least seven years to reach maturity, it must be produced in one of five designated regions in Mexico (with Jalisco probably the most well-known) in order for it to officially bear the tequila label.It’s then fermented with yeast and generally distilled twice in a copper pot. So now you know how much work goes into each sip, you might be less willing to down it in one shot next time.We tested our tequila samples in multiple ways. First up, we sipped these neat to allow the more nuanced flavours to shine through.After that we tried it using the brand's signature serve – sometimes that was simply with tonic, others in a straight up margarita. Regardless of the aging each spirit had undertaken, we were looking for a complex flavour profile and a long smooth finish for it to warrant its place on this list. When selecting your tequila there are four main types you should be aware of:Blanco – this is unaged and usually bottled shortly after distillation. Reposado – this will be aged for up to a year. Anejo – aged for anywhere between 1-3 years. Extra Anejo – as the name suggests, this is aged for 3 years +You can trust our independent reviews. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world testing and expert advice. This revenue helps to fund journalism across The Independent. Casamigos Reposado Tequila 70cl, 40%: £59.25, The Whisky ExchangeSilky smooth with notes of caramel, vanilla and smoke, but then what else would you expect from the suave movie star, George Clooney. Yes, the actor has created this spirit with American businessmen Rande Gerber under the name Casamigos which roughly translates as “house of friends”. Best sipped neat to really appreciate the nuanced flavours imparted from the seven months of ageing in American oak, the agave is fermented for twice as long as normal and roasted for 10 times longer. In this case, slow and steady wins the race.Buy now El Rayo Reposado 70cl, 40%: £43.75, Master of MaltTry switching the G for T and teaming this tequila with your favourite tonic (this one from Sekforde is specially created for tequila). An easy, refreshing serve, the Reposado from Tequila El Rayo has benefited from seven months in whisky barrels before bottling. The beautiful label depicts the folkloric tale El Rayo takes its name from. The story goes that a lightning bolt struck the blue agave plant which was then seen glowing by a local farmer who followed it and discovered the cooked agave and hence, tequila was born. We’re grateful he did otherwise we may never have discovered the smooth caramel, nuts and earthy notes in this tequila. Buy now Fortaleza Blanco Tequila 70cl, 40%: £56.75, The Whisky ExchangeDon’t be fooled into thinking an unaged tequila will lack complexity. This is a fabulous example of a blanco with notes of lime, vanilla, herbaceous basil, earthy olive and a crack of black pepper. Small batches are made using the traditional method, with a fifth generation family member overseeing production. From slow-cooking the agave in their old stone oven right through to decanting into hand-blown bottles, there’s nothing about this process that is rushed.Buy now Tapatio Anejo Tequila 50cl, 38%: £33.75, The Whisky ExchangeThis sipping tequila is aged for around 18 months in old bourbon barrels, which have imparted their lovely rich spicy flavours into the spirit. This extended time in the cask really smooths everything over, bringing out the sweet vanilla notes and long chocolate-flecked finish. The perfect nightcap, simply team with a square of Mexican dark chocolate.Buy now Código 1530 Rosa Tequila 70cl, 40%: £65.50, Harvey NicholsYou can always rely on Harvey Nichols for something a little special, and this pale pink number is definitely that. The spirit gets its rosy hue from its time in ultra-premium uncharred cabernet French white oak barrels from a top-secret wine producer in California's Napa Valley. As such you can expect a delightfully delicate floral finish. Completely unique, and one that must be tried, it’s particularly good over ice with nothing more than a wedge of orange or pink grapefruit to garnish.Buy now Patron Silver Tequila 35cl 40%: £25, AsdaCrisp, fresh and crystal clear, this straight forward tequila is all about the zesty citrus notes which make it the perfect partner for a margarita. There’s a smooth, sweet undertone on the palate, with white pepper on the finish and overall a bright purity. We love that each bottle is signed, numbered and bottled by hand, despite coming from one of the most famous tequila houses in Mexico.Buy now Tequila Clase Azul Plata Reposado Tequila 70cl, 40%: £160, SelfridgesThis blow-the-budget tequila will surely take pride of place on your bar cart, presented in a stunning, hand-painted ceramic vessel, decorated by local Mexican artists. Although, rest assured this is so much more than just a pretty bottle. The award-winning tequila is aged for a minimum of eight months, before bottling, imparting silky smooth notes of creamy toffee, vanilla and honeyed tropical fruit. A very special gift for the true tequila aficionado, we’d recommend sipping this like you would a single malt whisky.Buy now Herradura Reposado 70cl, 40%: £43.63, Master of MaltThis moreish tipple has a complex palate with sweet toffee and gingerbread reflected in the deep copper hued spirit. It’s rather strangely aged for 11 months (one more and it could have been a classed as an Anejo!) but the flavours are very well integrated with a long memorable spicy finish. Perhaps this explains why the Herradura brand is the most gold-awarded tequila in the world.Buy now Ocho 8 Tequila 50cl, 40%: £18.50, WaitroseA great value spirit to kick start your agave obsession. We’ll be rustling up cocktails a plenty with this bright 100 per cent agave silver tequila boasting mint and pine on the nose and candied orange and white pepper on the finish. It’s a single estate, meaning the agave all comes from one specific field and that allows each locations distinctive characteristics to be appreciated. Ocho allow the agave to grow for eight years before cutting, and as such, batches are small and made slowly in the traditional way.Buy now The verdict: Tequilas It’s not the cheapest bottle out there, but we’re big fans of the versatility of Casamigos Reposado Tequila which we found delicious drunk neat and in cocktails. If you’re looking for an unaged version, we’d recommend the Fortaleza Blanco Tequila which provides a lot of bang for your buck.
The king of all fruits is here, and as you are enjoying the yummy tastes and varieties, we know that you have a favourite mango type that you enjoy the most. This weekend, we ask you, which is the best mango type in India. Pick your favourite in the poll below.
Crunchy, juicy, fresh and healthy - these are some of the terms one can use to describe cucumbers! They can be eaten as a snack, added to your salads or in a sandwich or can be added to your smoothies. Extremely healthy and refreshing, cucumbers are rich in water and can provide fantastic benefits to people who are looking to lose weight.
For the western palate, sake’s unique mix of sweet and fruity, floral flavours with savoury hints of soy can be a challenging experience, but get to know this highly-prized, rice-based booze and you’ll discover a drink spanning a huge flavour spectrum, and one that is almost unrivalled in its food pairing abilities. Before we plunge headlong into the wonderful world of sake though, it’s worth getting to grips with the basics.Sake is made in a similar way to beer – polished rice is washed, steamed and cooled before the addition of koji, a mould culture that breaks down the enzyme-rich rice into fermentable sugars.It also drives that all important umami flavour. The quality of sake is determined by the polishing ratio of the rice used. The polishing (or milling) process removes the husk and outer portion of the rice kernel – part of the grain that can produce undesirable flavours in the finished brew. Generally speaking, a sake made from a highly polished grain will be of a higher quality, and subsequently sold for a higher premium.Sake styles manifest in many forms, and bottle labels can be confusing for the aspiring koji connoisseur. Here’s what to look for...Daiginjo: A super-premium sake with minimum 50 per cent polishing ratio. This style is often bolstered by the addition of a small amount of distilled alcohol to enhance the floral, fruity flavours. Best served chilled.Ginjo: A premium fragrant sake with minimum 40 per cent polishing ratio. Best served chilled.Honjozo: A light, mildly fragrant premium sake polished to a minimum of 70 per cent with a small amount of distilled alcohol added to extract aroma and flavour. Can be served chilled or warm. (Heat gently to 45-50C)Junmai: Sake made without additions and with no minimum polishing ratio. Can be served chilled or warm, (heat gently to 45-50C). A Junmai followed with either daiginjo and ginjo means that no alcohol has been added.There’s a sake out there for all tastes – here’s ten of the best.You can trust our independent reviews. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world testing and expert advice. This revenue helps to fund journalism across The Independent. Akashi-Tai shiraume ginjo umeshu, 14%, 500ml: £17.48, AmazonBreathe in the sherry-like aroma of this super sake and you’ll immediately get an inkling of its dessert wine qualities. The initial honey hit is balanced by the gentle acidity from the plum and finishes with subtle notes of soy. Serve it as an accompaniment to rich toffee puddings and fruit cake. Its cocktail game is pretty strong too – try using it as a vermouth replacement and mix with a Japanese blended whisky for a mighty fine Manhattan.Buy now Yauemon Snow Blossom daiginjo muroka nama genshu, 16%, 720ml: £32, Tengu SakeThis premium daiginjo is a namazake, a sake left in its natural state, unsullied by the potential flavour-inhibiting preservation process of pasteurisation. Yauemon Snow Blossom is a vibrant and lively drink, with a distinct robust sharpness enhancing the flavours of melon, apple and pineapple. Just remember that an unpasteurised brew such as this has limited shelf life, so keep it in the fridge and drink it quick.Buy now Akashi-Tai ginjo yuzushu, 10%, 500ml: £20.83, AmazonThis citrus, fruit forward sake has been infused with macerated yuzu, bringing with it maximum mouth-puckering tartness and a cloudy lemon hue. Serve it neat – straight from the fridge – or mix it with soda water for a thirst quenching, low ABV super summer spritzer.Buy now Kanpai Fizu sparkling sake, 11.5%, 380ml: £14.95, Master of MaltThere are currently two sake breweries in the UK, each operating at polar ends of the sake market. Fordham Abbey, Cambridgeshire is home to the Dojima brewery who produce cellar-aged, wallet-worrying sake for £1000 a bottle. Kanpai – a small-batch brewery operating out of a warehouse in Peckham – produce sakes that are touch more affordable but no less authentic. Seek out their small batch Fizu, a sake with craft beer credentials having been infused with mosaic hops. It’s a satisfying, moreish sake with a bright, clean citrus finish.Buy now Gekkeikan nouvelle junmai ginjo, 15-16%, 720ml: £31.80, The Japan CentreThis accessible, well-balanced sake hails from Japan’s hugely popular Gekkeikan brewery. It’s light, bright and flinty with a rice-forward flavour and gentle acidity, perfect for food pairing. The quality of this sake is no surprise – Gekkeikan have been brewing sake since 1637; they’ve had a long time to perfect their technique.Buy now Dassai 50 junmai daiginjo, 16%, 300ml: £20.25, AmazonThe family owned Dassai brewery regularly scoop up prizes for their superior range of sakes. Dassai 50 is our pick of the crop – it’s a fruity, easy drinking number, perfect for sake novices who want to dip a tentative toe into the world of rice-based booze. You can gently warm this brew for supping on cooler evenings, but to fully appreciate the nuanced flavours of red berries and anise, it’s a drink best served cold.Buy now Sohomare junmai ginjo, 15%, 720ml: £35.95, The Whisky ExchangeSohomare’s junami ginjo is a premium, grain-forward sake, made using the “kimoto method”. The sake and koji (rice mould) are stirred with long poles to encourage lactic acid to form naturally – a process that almost doubles the brewing time. The fruits of this labour intensive process is an extremely mellow, smooth sipping brew with gentle floral notes and moreish minerality.Buy now Hanatomoe sugi barrel,15%, 720ml: £42, Japan GourmetThe Hanatomoe brewery are known for their modern, complex sakes made with traditional brewing methods. Hanatomoe sugi (or “cedar”) is made by using the yamahai method – a part wild ferment sped up by the early introduction of lactic acid. The sake is then left to mature in cedar barrels, imparting spicy hints of sandalwood and green tea to the smooth, characterful brew.Buy now Shichiken sparkling dry, 11%, 720ml: £46, Japan GourmetFancy some fizz but bored of brut? This dry, sparkling treat is made using the traditional method, where live yeast is left in the bottle to give the sake secondary ferment. The result is a light, peachy sake with a beautifully soft mouthfeel and delicate bready finish. Just be aware that when you pop the cap, your previously clear, bottle-bourne booze will turn cloudy when the bubbles are released and hit the yeast.Buy now Tamagawa Time Machine, 14%, 360ml: £23.45, The Whisky ExchangeMade from a 300 year old recipe (hence the time machine tag) this thick, viscous sake delivers umami by the bucket-load. Big mouthfuls of savoury soy meld with sweet rich molasses and tropical fruits. It’s not to everyone’s palate but is the closest you probably get to experiencing the true taste of an ancient Japanese brew.Buy now The verdict: SakesThere’s a sake for everyone. Fruit-forward fans, reach for the Akashi-Tai shiraume ginjo umeshu. Fearless sake warriors who want to challenge their taste buds should pour themselves a Tamagawa time machine and prepare to ride sweet waves of soy.
When we think of old world wine, France, Italy and Spain probably spring to mind long before Greece does. However, this is a country that has been producing outstanding wine for centuries. Yet with its hard to pronounce grape varieties and sometimes limited availability (in contrast to say, New Zealand’s sauvignon blanc), Greek wine can often be overlooked. That’s something that is slowly starting to change, especially with such outstanding crisp, bone-dry white wines coming from the volcanic soil of Santorini.Red wine doesn’t disappoint either with everything from refreshing, easy drinking reds to the dark and brooding types.The savoury notes so often found in wines from this part of the world make them an absolute belter when it comes to matching with food. In short, both mainland Greece and its islands are a treasure trove of wines offering something exciting for every occasion. Santo Wines, Santorini PDO, Nykteri 13.9%: £17.90, Maltby&GreekAs the quality of wine from Santorini becomes more well-known, prices have been increasing year on year, with some comparing it to white burgundy. Wine is selling faster than it can be aged so a great value Santorini may soon be a thing of the past. However, we think we’ve found one that ticks all the boxes while coming in at under £20. Opening up with a fragrant floral nose, the palate is crisp, dry and refreshing, balanced with just a touch of oak which gives way to an impressive long finish.Buy now Oenops Wines Apla white 2017 13%: £22, Roberson WineCombining the thirst quenching minerality found in Santorini’s assyrtiko with the perfumed, stone fruit more familiar in the malagouzia grape, is this fantastically refreshing white wine from northern Greece. Again, there’s a whiff of herbs here which lends a savoury edge, making it bold enough to drink by itself or pair with everything from salty cheese, grilled prawns or spicy curries.Buy now Domaine Lyrarakis, Dafni Psarades vineyard 2017 12.5%: £13.25, Berry BrosIt’s a bit of a gamble including this in a roundup of the very best Greek wines because it’s certainly unusual. However, it’s the unique savoury notes that made this stick in our mind long after we’d finished the bottle. Aptly named after the native “laurel” tree – the plant which produces bay leaves often used to flavour cooking in this part of the world – this is a complex wine with herbaceous notes, a full well-rounded creamy mouthfeel and bright, fresh acidity. Versatile enough to match with a variety of food, but exciting enough to be enjoyed as a standalone glass of wine. Buy now Atlantis Santorini 13%: £72 (case of six), Marks & SpencerSantorini is an exceptional island for wine production, thanks to its arid volcanic ash-rich soil, hot days and cooler nights. This is a wonderful example which showcases the infamous minerality you’d expect, along with tingling-acidity and just a touch of honeyed fruit which ensures a fine balance. Made predominantly with the indigenous old-vine assyrtiko grapes, this refreshing white wine is great at cutting through salty food – try it with a halloumi souvlaki.Buy now Lyrarakis 'voila' assyrtiko 2018 13.5%: £9.99, MajesticEven wine giants Majestic don’t stock a huge amount of Greek wine, but this multi-award-winning bottle managed to earn its place on the line-up. Bone-dry and perfectly refreshing, this is best drunk nice and cold on a hot summer’s day. The family-run winery discovered that the assyrtiko grape is very happy growing in east Crete, and we think this represents great value with its infamous minerality, crunchy apple notes and thirst-quenching acidity.Buy now Ktima Vourvoukelis limnio 2016 13%: £22.75, Harvey NicholsLimnio is an ancient grape, produced on the coast of Thrace in northern Greece for this rich luxurious organic red. Available in limited quantities, expect savoury herbaceous notes – particularly rosemary – fresh, young red fruit and a touch of black pepper on the finish. It works well with slow-cooked stews, barbecued steak and hard cheeses. Buy now Kokotos Three Hills agiorgitiko-cabernet sauvignon 2017 12%: £12, Pull the CorkA lot of the red wines found across Greece are rich and decadently heavy, but this light, refreshing style shows they are more than a one trick pony. Made predominantly with the agiorgitiko grape from the Nemea region, it has spent six months in French oak but retains fresh floral notes and good acidity. We’ll be enjoying this with barbequed food this summer.Buy now Domaine Skouras Saint George, aghiorghitiko, 2014 12.5%: £15.95, JeroboamsThis cherry-hued red is bursting with ripe juicy fruit – think blackberries, mulberries, raspberries and strawberries – with the added complexity of spices such as aniseed, cinnamon and black pepper. Medium-bodied with a nice long finish and just a touch of sweet vanilla on the palate, we’ll be pairing this with lamb every which way – grilled cutlets, kebabs or in slow-cooked stews would all work a treat.Buy now Vassaltis Santorini assyrtiko 2017 14%: £30, Virgin WinesThis fragrant white may look pricey but on the recommendation of many in the wine business we gave it a go and found it to be worth every penny. Wonderfully complex with notes of sun-baked dried fruit, alongside fresh minerality and vibrant citrus, this would be a treat with lobster or crab in creamy sauces. Another winner from Santorini-grown assyrtiko grapes.Buy now T-OINOS Clos Stegasta assyrtiko 2017 14%: £44.95, Master of MaltT-OINOS are the first wines in 3000 years to be produced from the volcanic soil of Tinos, a World Heritage-listed island of the Cyclades. Expressing the character of the T-OINOS vines, as well as the soil in which they grow and the climate they are immersed in, this is well worth splashing out for on special occasions. Expect lemon zest, fabulous minerality and a slightly creamy note which gives each sip a wonderful richness. Created with organic assyrtiko grapes, this elegant white works well with spicier dishes (thanks to the salinity) and of course, a variety of seafood.Buy now Domaine Zafeirakis limniona red 2015 13%: £27, Roberson WinePinot-noir fans, listen up! We think you’ll love this easy-drinking red from the foothills of Mount Olympus in Thessaly, central Greece. Well rounded and silky smooth, the savoury notes make this particularly moreish and one that will only get better with age. There is already oak present however and that’s balanced with fresh red berries and the subtlest notes of rose petals. Slow-cooked beef and tomato based dishes will make this shine.Buy now Domaine Kalathas 'Sainte-Obeissance' Aspro Potamisi-Rozaki, 2016 14%: £32, Maltby&GreekPurveyors of the very finest Greek produce, it’s really no surprise we found so many gems from Maltby&Greek. This exciting biodynamic wine encapsulates the sun and sea of the Aegean islands. Despite its appearance, this isn’t classed as an orange wine, but rather is a natural style, made with minimal intervention and no added sulphur. The salinity found on the finish of this wine means it can take a little spice so don’t be afraid of pairing with Asian cuisine.Buy now Thymiopoulos Atma xinomavro 13%: £11.99, WaitroseDespite the fact that xinomavro translates as acid black this is surprisingly approachable. Ruby red and super smooth, this is far from aggressive or astringent. In fact the winning combination of young red fruit, floral notes, coffee and spice mean that this is the sort of bottle to savour alongside a long, lazy, mezze.Buy now Adnams ‘Anthemis’ Vin de Liqueur 15%: £11.99, AdnamsSo you’ve had white wine with your seafood starter and red with your meaty main, but there’s no need to abandon Greece when it comes to dessert. Adnams have sourced this rich, smooth as honey dessert wine from the island of Samos which has been aged in oak for an impressive five years. Treacle, toffee and raisin notes are crying out to be paired with an exciting cheese board.Buy now The verdict: Greek winesFor us, the perfect example of Greek wine encapsulates the minerality found in Santorini’s assyrtiko grapes along with an underlying savoury note – all wrapped up in bone-dry, lip-smacking acidity. With that in mind, we think Maltby&Greek’s Santo Wines manages to deliver all of that for a very reasonable price.