Food & Drink Sunday, May 29th Words by: Lauren Rogers, pictures by: British Cassis

Mix It Up: British Cassis cocktails with Jo Hilditch

Food & Drink Sunday, May 29th

Mix It Up: British Cassis cocktails with Jo Hilditch

Jo Hildtich is the Herefordshire famer who said thanks but no thanks to the TV dragons when they saw (and wanted) a cut of her British Cassis business. 

We had a quick chat about her Lyonshall-based liquer business, the "forgotten fruit" and classic cassis cocktail recipes.

What are your earliest memories of alcohol - wine at the family table? Cider in the park?

This is a tricky, one, don’t want to make myself out to be any sort of alcoholic, but yes, on holidays in France we would have our waters coloured with a dash of red wine. We also had wine at the family table at home as well as cider. In fact as a mild introduction to alcohol a dash of Cassis in lemonade is a very weak cocktail that my children have had since they were in their early teens with lunch on Sunday!

Do you have a favourite cocktail?

This year of the Queen’s Birthday it has to be a Kir Royale - a large shot of British Cassis topped up with Champagne, but we also make a mean Raspberry Daiquiri – 50 ml Framboise/ 50ml White Rum / Handful of Raspberries / a Handful of Mint all churned up together in a food processor with some ice and poured into a sugared martini glass – cold and perfectly delicious!

The Royale

BritCassis TheRoyale opt

• 50ml British Cassis
• 25ml London gin
• 15-20ml lemon juice
• 10ml sugar syrup
• Dash of lemonade

Pour the gin in the glass, squeeze in the lemon juice, add the sugar syrup and cassis and top up with a dash of lemonade.

Tell us about a typical year for British Cassis – when are you growing, when are you bottling?

A blackcurrant bush takes 3 years to bear any fruit and then yields for around another 5 years before being cut back to start all over again. So the farming is constant.  We are growing all year and improving our husbandry techniques all the time through pruning, minimum spray programmes and careful plantation maintenance.

We harvest through July and August, then we get the blackcurrants juiced at Pixley Berries near Ledbury.  They come back to us as pure juice and at this point we get going with our fermentation process.

It takes from 4 – 6 months to ferment and at the end we add sugar to taste, and to bring out the intense flavour of the blackcurrants.  We have batches going all year long, so we bottle as each batch becomes ready.

Then we label, box and hopefully send out to all our national customers.

Where was the first place it was stocked? And the most recent?

First exciting big order was Fortnum and Mason own brand, but more locally at The Hop Pocket near Ledbury. Our most recent order was a wine merchant in Southampton called Alexanders.

Is there anyone else in the UK making cassis?

There are other people who make blackcurrant liqueurs and very small batches of Cassis, but none who have set out with large plans for their brand as us with the intention of developing a large market and similar to the French in its target market.

As we are one of the major growers of blackcurrants for Ribena, producing around 350 tonnes per year, this has been an interesting diversification and is a great way to use our excess crop.

How important is Herefordshire's role in cassis?

Herefordshire is one of the main areas in the country that grows blackcurrants commercially, there are only 40 growers left in the UK, so it is a somewhat forgotten fruit.

Generally, are you happy to see all UK-made liqueurs becoming more readily available – fruit infusions, sloe gin, they are growing in popularity. How do you keep your head above the crowd?

Competition only helps our market.

Our product is out there on its own as a Cassis, so as long as people like it and keep coming back because of its taste, quality and provenance then we can keep selling it. We are also going for a full rebrand later this year so that the product looks fantastic in its bottle – after all it’s a wonderful gift with a bottle of champagne, so our innovative product placement all helps improve our sales.

Lavender Field

BritishCassis Lav Field opt

• White wine
• Lemonade/ tonic water
• Whole blackcurrants steeped in Cassis
• 10ml British Cassis
• Spiralled orange zest
• Fresh lavender sprig
• Replace the white wine and lemonade/ tonic water with Prosecco!

Pour the white wine and lemonade or tonic water in the glass, add the British Cassis and spoon in the steeped blackcurrants, finish with a spiraled orange zest and a fresh lavender sprig to garnish.

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