The Steeple Times asks drinks historian and master distiller Jared Brown: “What’s on your mantelpiece?”
The Steeple Times shares “wit and wisdom.” What’s your guiding force?
“Gin, vermouth, and a twist” is my personal guiding force. Please be sure the vermouth is fresh. Vermouth is a wine. It breathes, rots, and dies. It lasts only a few months in the fridge. That half-full bottle on a dusty shelf is a memorial to misspent vermouth. Time for a new one.
Professional is “Quality, price, and time”. It’s the eternal triangle. Want more of one? The others will change.
“Don’t get even, get medieval” is, in our humble opinion, a great motto. What’s yours?
Never trust a man with perfect hair or a woman with perfect nails.
Kerry Katona was considered unacceptable in 2007. Who or what is unacceptable in 2013?
I passed my driving exam thanks to Kerry Katona. I realised too late I was heading for a 30mph zone at 60mph. The examiner’s eyes were fixed on the speedometer and his pen was poised to tick the “fail” box. All he had to do was witness it as I passed the sign. I glanced out the window past him and blurted: “Hey, it’s Kerry Katona!” Of course it wasn’t, but he fell for it. Whilst I hit the brakes, he craned his neck the other way for a glimpse of her golden locks. For that I will always have a soft spot for her.
In 2013? Hang on, I’ll open up The Sun.
Tony Blair misses being Prime Minister. What do you miss most in your life?
Bialys. You can’t find a decent bialy in the whole of Britain. They’re so much better than bagels.
What might you swap all your wealth for?
A life as a drinks historian, writer and distiller.
Donald Trump was once a case of: “If you owe the bank a thousand, they close you down; but if you owe the bank a billion, you own the bank.” What’s your view on the banking crisis?
Advice from The Donald? He forgot to mention that if you owe the bank a billion, you inexplicably turn orange. Banker: It’s the only word in the English language where a B is so frequently mispronounced as a…
What phrase or word do you most loathe?
Phrase: “No sugar added.” You’d think that means unsweetened. Natural. No, it means instead of sugar we’ve chucked a load of truly rank artificial sweeteners in your drink.
Word: “Celebrity.” If that is what celebrity means today, get me out of here!
In the UK, some people consider charity to “begin at home.” What’s your view and what causes do you personally support?
I support cancer charities like Macmillan Cancer Support. It seems only right after beating the odds (http://www.macmillan.org.uk). I also support bartending and service industry charities like The Benevolent as charity does begin at home and in this life they are my family (http://www.thebenevolent.org.uk). I’m also a big supporter of British produce (http://www.flavourfirst.org).
The judge in “Law Abiding Citizen” states: “I can pretty much do whatever I want” before being blown up whilst answering her mobile phone. What’s your view on the appropriate use of such devices?
I’m not certain which device you’re asking about here so I’ll address both: 1) I feel there is absolutely no appropriate time or place to use an IED. Full stop. 2) If you are going to speak loudly on your mobile in public at least have the decency to keep the conversation highly personal and deeply embarrassing. One of my favourite moments was when a young executive type shouted: “How can they say they have trust issues?! It’s not like I’ve ever been convicted! No. No. Not even once.”
If you could fill a carriage on The Orient Express, who would be your fellow passengers?
My partner of two decades and a load of wonderful friends we have traveled with over the years, plus Stephen Fry. Hugh Laurie on piano, Raymond Blanc in the kitchen (I wonder if he’s ever experimented with dim sum?), Lenny Henry and Billy Connolly pulling pints (I leave the cocktails to my nearest and dearest) and David Suchet in character as Hercule Poirot.
If you were unfortunate enough to end up on death row, what would be your last meal and where would you eat it?
Street taquitos from a pushcart vendor I know in Tequila, Mexico. Best I’ve had. Plus food poisoning gets you an automatic delay of execution. So, presuming that goes to plan and gets me another last meal, I’d move on to my wife’s braised venison with blackcurrant butter in a large Yorkshire pudding.
What time is it acceptable to consume the first drink of the day?
A Julep never clashes with the toothpaste, unlike cappuccino. I love bartenders in New Orleans. Your average one knows how to make Milk Punch, Bloody Mary, Ramos Gin Fizz, French 75, and might give you an odd glance if you order one in the evening because they know those are breakfast drinks.
A Negroni, a martini or a cup of tea?
Why an either/or? Infuse Earl Grey into the gin for an hour for the Martini, or Rare Tea Company’s white tea into the gin for about 15 minutes for the Negroni. (3-4 tablespoons of tea per bottle of gin). Gin always helps the tea go down.
Whose parties do you enjoy the most and why?
Tony Conigliaro from 69 Colebrooke Row, London, because a big part of him has never grown up. Henry Besant from Strangehill Limited because he has never learned moderation in celebration and has the warmest, most welcoming family on the planet… As I live and work among professional partiers, this answer could become a book in itself.
Who is the most positive person you know?
What a wonderful question! In my perfect world, the tallest monuments in squares and parks wouldn’t have to go to military heroes (my world, no wars). Instead, there would be statues of the most positive and upbeat people. I would have to give this to Sam Galsworthy, one of my partners at Sipsmith. Or James Grundy there. Both fill a room with cheer. Then there’s Ryan Silbert in New York, whose positivity I studied and imitated as best I could, much to his surprise at being a role model nearly twenty years my junior.
What’s your most guilty pleasure?
Baileys. Does it get more guilty? Or pleasurable? But let’s just keep this between us.
If a tattoo were to sum you up, what would it be of?
If you were a car, what marque would you be?
I’d like to be a Morgan but I’d probably wake up one morning, look in the mirror and realise I’d always been an MG.
Cilla Black presented “Surprise, Surprise.” Tell us the most surprising thing about you.
I made my first distillation when I was ten. I read that the American colonists repeatedly froze cider to concentrate the alcohol. So, I made cider (it wasn’t commonly available in the States at the time) and left it out in the snow for a few days, lifting out the ice every morning. It was an early age to learn a hard lesson about hangovers. By eleven, I started using bought base spirit, vodka, to make liqueurs instead. My mother was confused, but indulgent.
What’s currently sitting on your mantelpiece?
Alcohol: a lot of it. There are fresh batches of damson and wormwood vodka, sloe grappa, sloe Irish whiskey, bullace gin, venison-smoked gin, cherry-smoked gin, blackberry vodka. Bottles of Metaxa 7-star and 12-star. Havana Club Selection de Maestros. Rakomelo, Bergamot and sour cherry liqueurs from a little distillery in the Plaka, Athens. Green crème de menthe and white crème de cacao for the occasional Grasshopper Cocktail. An empty Seitz beer bottle circa late-1800s from my family’s lost-lost brewery (curse those Prohibition agents!). Sipsmith sloe gin and damson vodka.
Jared Brown is a a drinks historian and director of Mixellany Limited®, a consultancy and publishing company that specialises in “anything and everything to do with spirits and mixed drinks.” He is also the master distiller for Sipsmith Independent Spirits, the first copper-pot distillery to open within London’s city limits in two centuries.