Next in our Meet the People series, we speak with Arijit Bose, Monkey 47 Brand Ambassador Asia Pacific.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and your background.
I come from India. I studied Hotel Management, was hired as a Management trainee and started working in the kitchen before I decided that I liked working more in bars. I stared in nightclubs then moved around and one of my managers ended up as my business partner and we opened PCO (Pass Code Only), India’s first speakeasy style bar. I also started Getafix, a cocktail unit for events and The Delhi Cocktail Club. When I was travelling in the Philippines, I was offered a job at 28HKS in Singapore and stayed there for one year and two months.
How did you become Monkey 47 Brand Ambassador for Asia Pacific?
Julien Nicolay, General Manager of Monkey 47 Asia Pacific was one of our best customers at 28HKS. He had a program unofficially called “friends of the monkey” where they would invite bartenders to provide training and bartending services in Asian countries. We started working together, developed a good relationship and the role of Monkey 47 Brand Ambassador Asia Pacific was created for me.
How long have you been in the role?
I started in December 2016.
Can you tell us the story behind the name of the gin.
The story is built around relationships. Wing Commander Montgomery “Monty” Collins of the RAF charged moved to Berlin and had a special interest in the re-building of the Berlin Zoo where he sponsored a monkey called Max. After leaving the RAF, he moved to the Black Forest and opened a guesthouse “Zum wilden Affen” (the Wild Ape) in honour of Max. Being British and born in Madras, he enjoyed gin and made his own. His recipe was eventually found in an old wooden box with the words “Max the Monkey – Schwarzwald Dry Gin”. The recipe was built on and it ended up with 47 botanicals. They called it Monkey 47 as a mark of respect for Max.
Monkey 47 has an ABV of 47% and contains 47 botanicals. What are some of the more unusual botanicals and what flavour profile do they contribute?
The most unusual – and what makes Monkey 47 what it is – is the lingonberry. It’s what builds up the back bone of our gin during the three week maceration period where the spirit picks up the body and the texture onto which the other botanicals cling. It’s the most unusual addition into the gin and the sum of all its products. There’s also the spignel which gives a spicy and herbal note. Of course there are the Black Forest botanicals such as spruce, but to me, they are not so unusual because they are local botanicals that grow in the area.
Tell us a little about how Monkey 47 is made?
We have three major processes, maceration, distillation and percolation. The lingonberries are macerated for 3 weeks in a molasses-based spirit, then the other 46 botanicals are added and macerated for a period of 3 days and 2 nights. We distil in four 100 litre column stills which work individually and produce the same distillate. We usually run two at a time – it’s not about volume but quality control. The stills are designed to work maceration style and with also with a Carter head. We also use percolation or steam extraction. We have 2 separate “bullets” that are filled with top note botanicals. After distillation, the gin is rested in 1000 litre pot clay vessels for about 3 months to allow the gin to marry and the flavours to mellow. The gin is then cut with Black Forest water from a protected area and undergoes a single coarse filtration in order not to strip the flavours.
With the explosion of craft gins on the market, where do you see Monkey 47 positioned?
There are a lot of gins in the market but a few will always come through. As far as we are concerned, the product that Alexander Steiner has made is perfect, it works. For us, it’s more about activating industry and how the bartenders use it. It’s less about being commercial, more about having a good time, having a good gin, and not being super pushy about how they should sell it. We know it won’t ever be on the speedrails. It’s a gin that has a place in the bar, a gin that people will seek out, and ask for it with the tonic they like. We activate it for bartenders because they know best how to sell a particular gin. I think it’s what all gins should be doing as well. We want consumers to find a bar with the gin and ask the bartender to make something aside from a gin and tonic. That’s what activates conversation and what makes the bar environment a lot more fun.
What are some of the gin cocktail trends that are hot right now?
It’s the gin and tonic and the personalisation of it. I can show you many cocktails but what is selling craft gin is how it tastes with tonic. Martinis will never die. I think the Gibson is going to make a comeback. Negronis and the growth of vermouths allow you different styles of Negronis and more opportunities to play with the gin. What gives me the shivers is that more and more people are having gin with ice, including ladies who say they don’t like gin. The craft industry has made it so that we have gins that are drinkable neat and it’s all about the flavour profile.
In your opinion, how is Monkey 47 best enjoyed?
In a gin and tonic, 1:3 ratio, with a squeeze of lime to balance out the tonic and fresh grapefruit. I am also seeing a lot more people having a gin and soda, more like a Gin Rickey for a healthier perspective. If you have it on ice, don’t serve it with a large block. You need some dilution to drop the ABV to around 40-42% so it’s easier to drink.
With your background and bartending experience, what is the most unusual Monkey 47 cocktail you’ve had?
The Schwarzwald Sour. It takes one gin cocktail and builds on another. Equal parts of Monkey 47 Gin, Suze, Lillet Blanc with 15 ml of fresh lemon juice, 15 ml sugar syrup and 1 egg white, dry shake then wet shake. There’s also Slip me a Mickey, a cocktail by Michael Callahan of 28 Hongkong Street with Monkey 47 Gin, Fernet Branca, lemon juice, honey and ginger. I want to make it a modern classic.
Any closing comments?
Follow us on the journey, have fun with us, and taste it. Even if you don’t like gin, give it a try it. We genuinely believe that on the worst day of doing what we do, life is not as serious as what is happening around the world. Be light-hearted, have fun with it and have a good time.
In partnership with Pernod Ricard Australia.
Photo Credit: Supplied