I am a big fan of amaro, vermouths and bitters and so it was with great pleasure I recently became a Beta tester for Asterley Bros as they seek to launch a new product into this competitive market sector. My fellow testers and I are a curious, critical collective and together we help the brothers shape their range of spirits and liqueurs.
Rob and Jim (Rob married into a Sicilian dynasty) make all their spirits by hand, using traditional methods in a workshop in Forest Hill, South East London. No outsourcing, no bullshit, no marketing misdirection. Using only the best natural ingredients, British if possible and organic whenever they can, each bottle takes around three months to make – using traditional craft techniques, made with care and attention, and only ever in small batches.
Their range is currently confined to 2 products: Dispense Amaro is based on 17th century recipes from ‘The London Dispensatory’ and combines 24 botanicals including gentian, hops and wormwood together with Rob’s wife’s family’s Sicilian amaro recipe. Their signature vermouth Estate, is made by infusing 31 botanicals with English pinot noir.
The beta samples arrived in cute testing bottles that wouldn’t be out of place on the shelves of D.R. Harris’s apothecary in St James’s. I tried mine first straight up and then over ice. The samples contained 14 ingredients including London Porter, dandelion, rosemary, chocolate malt, myrrh, mint, liquorice, cinchona, cacao nibs and roasted hazelnuts. I reckon they will be great in a Hanky Panky or on the rocks.
Once the beta results are all in and analysed, the guys will be refining the recipe and hopefully bringing their new baby into the world very soon. No slacking down there in Sarf London chaps!!
If, like me, you are always on the hunt for an alternative to brands like Montenegro, Cynar, Carpano, Lillet, Dolin, etc., then I do urge you to seek out Rob and Jim’s peerless products. Your Negronis and tastebuds will thank you!