There, on the bar in front of you, sits a tawny temptress in a tumbler. In its center floats a single frozen rock, like an iceberg surrounded by an amber ocean.
Swirl the glass and inhale the heady scent of honey. Taste it, and picture prunes, figs, and ripe raisins. Let it rest a moment on your tongue, and wait for another wave of flavour: zesty orange peel and the sultry spice of clove.
Swallow it, and feel the heat of the alcohol, like the smoky embers of a fire.
It is as if someone had distilled the very essence of a Christmas pudding.
“But…what is it, really?” you think, closing your eyes and searching for an answer from the spirit world. Could it be cognac? An aged rum? Bourbon, perhaps?
It is, in fact, none of the above. It is METAXA 12 Stars, one of approximately ten expressions of METAXA, a unique Greek liquor that defies categorization.
Founded by Spyros Metaxa in 1888, his eponymous brand is a blend of aromatic Muscat wines, wine distillates aged in toasted French limousin oak barrels, and a secret mix of Mediterranean botanicals.
You might attempt to shoehorn METAXA in among its brandy brethren, but it was officially pruned from that family tree in 1989. Today, it stands on its own, proudly sporting the banner of the “one-of-a-kind” Greek spirit, METAXA.
METAXA 12 Stars was conceived by Constantinos Raptis, who has served as “METAXA Master”—the brand’s torchbearer and key creative force—since 1992. While his lips are sealed when it comes to his botanical blend, aside from admitting to the long-acknowledged presence of rose petals, Raptis does give up a few details about how he achieved his iconic 12 Stars expression.
Most of METAXA’s Muscat wine comes from the island of Samos, from vineyards that rise up on a terraced mountainside. “Generally speaking, we collect the grapes from midway up,” says Raptis, who holds degrees in Chemistry and Oenology from the University of Athens.
“But for this specific style, we get the grapes from the upper part, 400-500 meters, in order to get more intense aroma and acidity.” Raptis also uses more heavily toasted barriques in the 12 Stars aging process.
“I wanted to create a more global METAXA style, to stand with different spirits like bourbon, whisky, aged rums, and cognac,” he says. “That was my first inspiration, but I also wanted to infuse the new style with the character of Greek nature.”
“Most people think of Greek nature as islands, sun, and sea, but it is not only that,” he insists. “There are lots of interesting forests and aromatic herbs, and all of this I wanted to inject into METAXA 12 Stars. I love the country, and I was inspired by it.”
The truly essential secret ingredients, it seems, are heart and soul.
METAXA 12 Stars is available at Waitrose and through Amazon.co.uk. RRP £30.
The Wolseley, the iconic London café by restauranteurs Chris Corbin and Jeremy King, has launched a mail order shop for gastronomic gifts. Spoil the extra-good girls and boys (or ladies and gents) on your holiday list with a Christmas Hamper packed with champagne, wine, Christmas puddings, biscuits and more (£350).
For the restrained teetotaler, options range from silver-plated teapots (£235) and tea strainers (£49) to a set of miniature tea tins for a suitably small price (£18.75).
Sometimes, though, it’s nice to be naughty. Who would say no to a box of Cognac chocolate truffles (£29.50)?
Claridge’s Hotel, a favourite of both crowned heads and Hollywood royalty, also debuted its first cookbook this autumn. The hotel’s executive chef Martyn Nail, together with food writer Meredith Erickson, share 160 years of Claridge’s most famous recipes and tips for entertaining.
The 260-page Claridge’s: The Cookbook includes chapters on subjects like Afternoon Tea, The Art of Carving, Cocktails, and—for the truly ambitious (i.e. masochistic) gourmand—How to Host a Dinner for 100. Maybe you’ll even be inspired to treat Santa to something posher than milk and chocolate chip cookies this year.
Available through Amazon for £10, or order a copy autographed by Chef Nail and packaged in a gift box directly from Claridge’s for £30.
With so many outstanding hotels opening around the world this year, the question travelers face may not be so much “where to go,” but rather, “where to stay.” We’ve compiled a list of ten of the hottest properties debuting in 2017.
Alila Fort Bishangarh
If you always imagined that you were a royal warlord in a past life—and frankly, who hasn’t entertained the notion—this is the place for you. The 59-suite Alila Fort Bishangarh, opening in Jaipur, India on February 28, is centered around a historic hilltop fortress with six-foot thick walls and views of the Rajasthani countryside. A new addition houses guest accommodations and lavish public spaces.
Amenities include indoor and outdoor dining, a turret filled with cigars and cognacs, a pool, bar, lounge, library, fitness center, children’s club, expansive lawns and an organic garden, as well as a spa, where the pressing of the flesh is no doubt much more enjoyable than in the old days when this space served as the dungeon. Rates from $280. (more…)
Whether you’re after an epic train journey, a camel trek through the desert, or just want to kick back on some of the world’s most beautiful beaches, I’ve compiled a list of five of the best—and occasionally unexpected—destinations for 2017.
From Burma’s Buddhist temples to the blazing beaches of Brazil, here are my top picks for this year’s hottest holidays.
Mankind seems to possess an innate desire “to explore strange new worlds.” Just ask Captain Kirk–or Lewis and Clark, for that matter. While there aren’t many places left where you can “boldly go where no one has gone before” (without the aid of a warp drive, at least), 2014 promises plenty of novel experiences to satiate your inner-adventurer. (more…)