Dark, mysterious, yet teeming with a storybook allure, Germany’s Black Forest — also known as the Schwarzwald — is the birthplace of the cuckoo clock, the Grimm brothers’ fairy tales, and also the exotic Monkey 47 Gin.
Considered one of the most premium and more unusual gins in the world today, Monkey 47 is unique in that it uses native Black Forest botanicals — a whopping 47 in fact, hence its name — in the traditionally British spirit. The brand also draws heavily upon the legendary story of Royal Air Force commander Montgomery Collins, who was apparently the brains behind the very first recipe for Black Forest Gin after the war. Though the stories faded in the 60s, in 2006 brand founder Alexander Stein became enamoured by the tale, and began developing the Schwarzwald Dry Gin — the beginnings of Monkey 47 as we know it today.
Compared to generic gins, Monkey 47 has a heavily woody, grassy aroma with a hint of fresh lavender and lingonberry. Instead of the usual strong flavour of junipers, you instead get the whole forest. It then lends into a smooth sip that bursts into juicy citrus flavours. Despite being 47% alcohol by volume, it’s very smooth without much burn; instead you’ll feel a slight pepperiness in the back of the throat. The fruitiness comes from the fresh citrus peel that’s added to the macerate before distilling — which we are told, is collected and peeled by helpful locals who live around the Black Forest area.
For more ways to enjoy this complex spirit than just a plain ol’ G&T — although, nothing wrong with that of course — Arijit Bose, the former head bartender at Singapore’s famous 28 Hong Kong Street (now 14th on the World’s 50 Best Bars list), has created a collection of Monkey 47 cocktails for the InterContinental Hong Kong that will be available through 31 August, 2017.
Bose is considered amongst the top echelon of bartenders in Singapore, and these days is busy building up the cocktail culture in New Delhi after starting his speakeasy PCO, and founding cocktail concepts Getafix and The Delhi Cocktail Club.
For this collaboration with the InterCon, Bose took small influences from classic gin-based cocktails, or other classic drinks and translated the recipes to highlight the bold spirit that is Monkey47.
The Schwarzwald Sour starts like a white negroni, using a clear yellow trifecta of Lillet blanc, Suze (a herby French aperitif made with gentian root), and Monkey 47. Whipped up with some egg white, lemon juice and syrup and topped with some rosemary, the result gives each sip a velvety mouthfeel, yet sweet and puckery for something that feels quite innocent. You could keep drinking and drinking it.
Combining the flavours of Earl Grey, thyme and gin is not revolutionary in the cocktail world, but The Young Earl gives a nice surprise by taking on an elegant reincarnation of the classic French 75 cocktail. Served in a tall flute, the cocktail uses Earl Grey- and thyme-infused syrup, fresh lychee and lemon juice, topped with sparkling wine for effervescence, yet still playing into Monkey 47’s own citrusy notes.
The third drink, The Monkey’s Secret is what Bose deems “the funky drink”: inspired by prohibition-era cocktail The Last Word, this cocktail takes the base of chartreuse and gin, and adds nutty orgeat, green apple, pear, and lemon juices for a much more Tiki-style creation, before topping off with tonic water. Thanks to the Orgeat, it tastes like a herbier Mai Tai, and the orchid garnish certainly helps in making this a fantastic summer poolside drink.
Those who adore a good negroni with its sweet orange aromas will like The Knicker Bocker Gambit, which pays homage to storied New York City hotel The Knickerbocker. Sweet and simple, this cocktail pairs Monkey 47 mainly with Mancino Rosso and Mancino Secco vermouth, shaking it up with curacao, raspberry syrup, orange and lemon juices for a bright, sweet and strong drink.
Cocktails cost HK$165 each, and if you’re down to sample all four, you can opt for a package deal for four cocktails paired with canapés for just HK$425 per person. Gin aficionados, we’ll see you there.
Lobby Lounge, InterContinental Hong Kong, 18 Salisbury Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong, +852 2721 1211