Continuing our series of conversations, now seemingly in full flow, we caught up with Bombay Sapphire Brand Ambassador, Sam Carter to see what he’s up to and have a sneaky peak of life behind the scenes of one of the gin category’s most successful brands.
Hello! You’ve been the Bombay Sapphire Ambassador for a while now, for the non-industry folk out there – what does it actually involve?
It’s a really varied role; a typical day can include engaging with visitors at the Bombay Sapphire Blue Room (at Vinopolis), hosting international press and delivering a consumer event in bar – all in a day! Basically, I’m the face of Bombay Sapphire, talking to anyone, anywhere about how fantastic gin and Bombay Sapphire is – it’s a dream job.
Certainly sounds like it… One of the first things everyone asks is what is the best Bombay Sapphire drink ie – what’s the Bombay signature serve? Is it a G&T or do you recommend something else?
Although the Bombay Sapphire and Fever Tree tonic is a delicious tipple the signature serve is a Bombay Sapphire Collins and, depending on what the occasion or audience is, then we have also created various twists on. My Favourite is a Bombay Sapphire White Peach and Elderflower Collins:
Bombay Sapphire White Peach and Elderflower Collins
50ml Bombay Sapphire
25ml freshly squeezed lemon juice
15ml Elderflower cordial
One third of a fresh white peach, diced or 20ml of good quality white peach puree
50ml Soda water
Muddle the diced white peach in the bottom of a clean highball glass. Add the fresh lemon juice, elderflower cordial and Bombay Sapphire. Stir well. Add plenty of cubed ice. Stir again. Top with soda water then stir for a final time to chill and combine all of the ingredients for a consistent drink. Garnish with a clear straw and a wedge of white peach. Enjoy responsibly.
You can’t go wrong with a classic in our book, and variations of them like that just take it to the next level – it sounds incredible. Obviously flavour, taste and how ingredients mix together is a huge part of what you do. Is there a certain flavour profile you like in gins generally?
A complex aromatic flavour profile gives me more to work with – in Bombay Sapphire this comes from the combination the 10 botanicals and the unique vapour infusion process.
Nice plug but fair play, you can definitely see why Bombay has been used so often in cocktails across the world. Another fair comment would be to say that we’re (self confessed) amateurs behind the stick – As a [former] bartender and now gin connoisseur, any advice on how to make a classic gin cocktail like a Martini or a Negroni?
- As with any cocktail, ensure you have lots of good quality ice.
- Measure ingredients accurately.
- Less is more when making up new cocktails. Try not to over complicate flavours and let the spirit shine through.
- Use the best ingredients you possibly can, fresh is best.
Already feeling more confident – cheers! PR, marketing and branding all have their part to play in making a gin commercially successful which we’ll go onto in a bit but obviously success starts with a great tasting liquid; so putting all the peripheral stuff aside, what do you think makes Bombay Sapphire a great gin?
The bottle is certainly what catches people’s eye initially but I certainly feel that it is the quality of the spirit inside the bottle which keeps people coming back and brand calling for a Bombay Sapphire and tonic. With regards to your question – what makes Bombay Sapphire a great gin is the distinctive aromatic flavour profile which means it works so well in cocktails.
Whilst we’re on the taste and the liquid – and don’t feel as if you have to answer this if you don’t want to, as we can appreciate that you’ll want to remain (at least a little) impartial – but who’s serving the best gin cocktails in town?
After serving myself at the Bombay Sapphire Blue Room (!) my favourite haunts for a gin cocktail are:
- Sarah Mitchell – Graphic Bar for its huge range of over 100 different gins
- Alex Kratena – The Artesian Bar at The Langham for its experimental concoctions
- Jack Hubbard – Montgomery Place for the exceptional knowledge of the bar team
- Amanda Humphrey – Paramount where you not only get a great cocktail but also a great view
- Eric Lorincz – The American Bar at The Savoy for its classical and sumptuous elegance
Great selection. It’s not often talked about but we are big fans of Bombay Dry, which really holds its ground compared to many others on the market- is it available in the UK and why do you think it hasn’t reached the same height as Sapphire?
Bombay Dry was created in the late 1950’s by Allan Subin an American entrepreneur who saw the opportunity to develop an English gin of quality and taste. Searching for a gin he came across Dakin’s 1761 recipe, including the Vapour Infusion distillation method. The brand was launched in the US market and soon took off. In the 1980’s when the gin category was stagnating entrepreneur Michel Roux, the US importer of Bombay Dry saw an opportunity to change these perceptions. He wanted to create a gin that would break the category mould and place the Bombay Brand back in the spotlight. Bombay Sapphire was created using the same 1761 recipe and Vapour Infusion method however Bombay Dry’s Master Distiller at the time, Ian Hamilton, added grains of paradise and cubeb berries to the 1761 recipe to create a more complex aromatic liquid. Bombay Dry was first launched in the US market and has remained a key brand in the Bombay family however Bombay Sapphire became such a phenomenal success with consumers it grew into a much larger brand over time. We’re proud to have both brands in the family.
It’s hard to overstate how much of a success. Arguably Bombay Sapphire was the first modern gin brand to open the category up to a whole new audience, probably doing more for gin as a whole than many other brands had done since the 40’s. How do you feel about the newer brands pushing hard now that gin is riding this wave of interest and expansion?
You’re right Bombay Sapphire really demonstrated that there was potential in gin. The gin the category is certainly an exciting and interesting category at the moment. A broad range of competition really pushes the category as a whole and brings gin to the forefront of both bartenders’ and consumers’ minds, which isn’t a bad thing.
The link with Vinopolis has been hugely successful so far and a great example of a well-executed brand experience and campaign- The partnership with the Savoy Grill is also underway (where guests can enjoy Bombay Sapphire cocktails on chef’s table) and the limited edition bottle to celebrate the 250th year of the recipe is now also on sale. Are there any projects coming up that you can talk about?
Yes, I’m very excited to say I am working on a new Molecular Mixology strategy which will continue to show that Bombay Sapphire is at the forefront of contemporary gin trends. We set the trends not follow them – as demonstrated by your earlier statement about Bombay Sapphire rejuvenating the gin category.
Tying in with the Blue Room experience, another thing that Bombay Sapphire deserves recognition for is to have opened up the conversation about what is going inside the bottle – i.e. what the botanicals are and what they mean etc… You must spend a lot of time talking about it on your travels but do you find that it actually makes a difference to people’s opinion about the spirit?
Absolutely – the botanical sensory experience Bombay Sapphire provides means people genuinely become immersed in the aroma and flavour profiles. The Bombay brand was the first gin brand to place not only the botanicals on the side of the bottle but also their provenance which is key to quality and flavour. I’ll often talk about a good friend of mine, Ivano Tonutti, Master of Botanicals for Bombay Sapphire; it’s his job to source only the very highest quality botanicals for Bombay Sapphire regardless of their cost. He is a really engaging and interesting person to meet and work with; he has been working with botanicals for over 20 years and really is a master of his craft. I love passing on the stories and knowledge that he shares, consumers and bartenders have a genuine interest in products sourced with care.
As a consumer, a lot of what we see is the finished side of campaigns and Bombay have been producing some interesting ones over the past few years, from the ones mentioned already, to the glassware competitions as well as others. Obviously making them come to life of a big part of what you do but there’s much more to brand ambassadorship than that – so all in all – What’s your favourite part of the job?
Genuinely, I love the fact that I get paid to not only use the knowledge I have gained over the past 15 years but that I learn new things and then talk about both of these with people everyday. I also feel honoured to work with such a premium and well-loved product and the fact that it is owned by a family company (Bacardi-Martini Ltd) is another bonus.
A mighty big family…! Thank you so much for taking the time to answer our questions, just one final one – you’ve clocked off, work is finished and you’re making one before you hit the road –what is it?
The question should say before I hit the pavement as we all know drinking and driving is for fools! Anyway, I’d take a hit of elegance from a Bombay Sapphire French 75, but with a twist of course. The cocktail is made by shaking Bombay Sapphire with fresh lemon juice then topping with Martini Asti – the twist is that the sweetness of Martini Asti removes the need for sugar syrup as a separate ingredient. Simple but delightful.
A diplomat all the way, and yes we agree – no drinking and driving! Thanks again for talking to us, it’s left us parched and inspired.
Chef’s Table, Bombay Sapphire’s exclusive partnership with the Savoy Grill where head chef Andy Cook menu takes inspiration from the 10 botanicals, is open for both lunch and dinner bookings. For those seeking a more hands on type of sensory experience, The Blue Room is open at Vinopolis, No. 1 Bank End, London, SE1 9BU - click here for details.