Review – Ruby Blue Liqueurs
It’s no secret that the best fruits are berries. Yes, apples and bananas and the like are great, but in a sort of ‘they’ll do for an afternoon snack’ kinda way. No, if I’m going to get excited about a fruit, it’s going to be about a berry. Trouble is, the darned things have a nasty habit of going off, so if I want any mid-winter fruit-induced excitement, preserving techniques are a necessity. Well done to the person who came up with jam in that case, but a big fat bravo to the Irish who don’t bother with all that getting the sugar to the right temperature malarky and just preserve them in booze instead. Five-times distilled neutral grain spirit is the stuff use by Ruby Blue (formerly known as the straight-to-the-point BoozeBerries) into which some fresh berries are popped, some of which are transferred to the bottle for your delectation.
Neat: The purity of aroma and flavour with these liqueurs is such that neat tasting notes read a little like someone lacking in imagination has written them. The cranberry liqueur for example smells like cranberry jam, and tastes like cranberries. Try as you might to pick up a random flavour or two, you just can’t. The chilli version too is pretty pure, with the smell of fresh cut chillies warning you not to take a large gulp, and the lip-tingling heat of the palate delivering just what you’d expect of the product. Pleasingly, in the moments before the heat builds, the sweetness does bring with it a strawberry-like character. The blackcurrant variety adds a little more complexity, with earthier aromas together with more floral notes reminiscent of maraschino cherries combining with the expected Ribena hit. It is somewhat less powerful on the palate than the nose, more tangy than might be expected, and certainly with a drier finish. The blueberry variety too offers a few extra notes for the flavour-seeker with hints of musty cellars on the nose but an altogether smoother, indeed silky and woody blueberry flavour building on the palate. Unfortunately a little of the freshness which is captured well in the other liqueurs seems lost here, with it all being about the deeper flavours. All are judiciously sweetened so as to retain a purity of flavour; just what you want from a sipping single-flavour liqueur.
Mixing: It is this purity of flavour that is the achilles heel of these liqueurs. Whilst the ‘does what it says on the bottle’ clean flavour lines offer appeal for neat sipping, they by contrast make for a more challenging mixing opportunity where great care must be taken to not overpower the subtlety. Of all the varieties, the blackcurrant benefits from the larger number of ‘classic’ recipes calling for its presence, of which the white spirits are most suitable, it getting rather lost in the Cognac-based Perfect Regent XV for example. The Arnaud Martini by contrast, in which the liqueur joins a very wet Martini, allows the liqueur to show off all its cassis-ness, particularly when combined with a nice earthy gin. Cranberry liqueurs by contrast are hardly commonly called for in cocktails, not that this should put you off. Again, it is worth heading for the lighter style of drinks where it makes for a satisfactory alternative to other fruity liqueurs such as creme de fraise in the Maestro with it’s quirky combination of balsamic vinegar, vodka, maple syrup and orange juice. They all work neatly in variations on a Raspberry Collins by simply changing out the liqueurs for each other. Of all the liqueurs, it is the blueberry which offers the most potential for mixing with aged spirits, what with those woody notes and all. again, substituting for creme de framboise in the Bourbon Blush is a pleasing twist, as indeed is the Fanhattan where is substitutes for creme de figue. Most challenging for mixing is the chilli liqueur, it not being a flavour that works in every combination. There is plenty to go wrong but add a splash to some hot chocolate and you’ll be feeling very pleased with yourself, as you will if you are brave enough to try in the signature twist on a Pina Colada (recipe below).
Signature Cocktail – Gaeng Pet Colada (created by Aaron Wall at Opium Dublin
1 Inch Lemongrass, 4 Chunks Fresh Pineapple, 2bsp Caster Sugar, 40ml Golden Rum, 20ml Ruby Blue Chilli Liqueur, 50ml Coconut Water.
Muddle lemongrass, pineapple and sugar together in base of shaker. Add rest ingredients and shake with ice. Fine strain over crushed ice and garnish with lemongrass and pineapple leaf.
Ruby Blue liqueurs offer a wonderful purity of flavour with restrained sweetness that makes them an excellent sipping option. Whilst they mix well, a delicate touch is required so as not to overpower them. The exception being the chilli variety with its big bold spicing.
Rating: ★★★ (Chilli and blueberry) – ★★★★ (cranberry and blackcurrant)
Ruby Blue Liqueurs are available to buy from Master of Malt.
★: Terrible, only drink for a dare.
★★: Meh, not undrinkable but best left alone.
★★★: Reasonable, middle of the road.
★★★★: Tasty stuff, well worth seeking out.
★★★★★: Incredible, booze doesn’t get better than this. You need a bottle in your life.