Kamm & Sons, a Great British Aperitif

Alex Kammerling calls himself “a flavor smith” and “massive perfectionist.” He also possesses the ability to taste in technicolor.

After over twenty years in the drinks industry, mostly as a celebrity bartender, he founded “Kamm & Sons” in the garden shed of his north London home. He created a bittersweet herbal “British Aperitif” and a gin in memory of his great-grandfather, Maximilian, who ran a confectionery shop in pre-war Austria. He died in Auschwitz along with his wife and one of his daughters. They were among the last transported to the camp, three months before its liberation.

“He sent his eldest child, Erica, to safety in England on a domestic work permit. Tragically being seventeen, Ruthi had been too young for the work permit, and too old to qualify for the Kindertransport that saved the life of their fifteen-year-old son, Walter, my grandfather.”

Walter Kammerling, now 97, worked on a farm in Northern Ireland before serving in the British Army. He still lives in Bournemouth.

“When he tried the aperitif, he said it tasted just like a herbal cough lozenge my great grandfather used to make for him when he was sick as a child.”

Spotting a gap in the market for a healthier drink that wasn’t gin or vodka and one with lower alcohol to stimulates the palate, Alex, now 45, spent six years developing his pioneering ginseng and grapefruit-based 33% ABV “British aperitif”  drink, using for 45 botanicals including manuka honey, gentian, and echinacea. Funded by crowdsourcing, distilled and bottled in London, the clear, golden aperitif is  “somewhere between Campari and Pimms,” continuing the traditions of aperitifs like the Swiss “Suze” (1889), “Aperol” (1918), the Violet brothers’ “Byrrh”  1886 and made in Thuir near Perpignan, Turin’s “ Carpano” ( 1786) and “Punt Es Mes” (1870).

Says the author of “Blend Me, Shake Me”: “Aperitif is a French word for an Italian tradition—an opening. Wormwood and gentian get the gastric juices going. Ginseng has to be the base note. It’s good for metabolizing alcohol.”

He says the gin is “fruitier than your grandmother’s jam cupboard.” word food originated in Italy.

An aperitif normally has a bitter element to it (wormwood, gentian, quinine, etc.) – this Kamm and Sons London Dry Gin is a modern interpretation of the classic London style. Fresh citrus yellows, herbaceous greens, sweetly spiced ambers, and fruity crimsons and botanicals, including ginseng, fresh grapefruit, lemon, and orange peels, are all combined.

Kamm & Sons, a Great British Aperitif

“I started tinkering around with botanicals and making infusions with various leaves, barks, and berries, macerating them in alcohol to extract their flavors and blending them to find a recipe I liked.  I have a condition called synaesthesia, which means when I eat, I see different colors. A berry makes me see purple. Orange or lemon makes him see orange and light green. I have it mildly, but I use color to help me define certain categories of flavors. Earthy flavors are browns, sepias, and ochres. Fuschia is burgundy!”

Alex was one of the first gin brand ambassadors for Miller’s. “I could see the trend towards more bitter styles of drinks, such as Aperol and Campari and bitters in cocktails. So I thought of creating a kind of bitterness inspired by English gin-making and Italy as well. At the core of my gin are juniper, coriander, licorice, and angelica, and I’ve taken those four elements and exaggerated them. Coriander has loads of linalool and citrusy, so I’ve added three fresh citrus types to complement it. Juniper has a piney, lavender quality, so I have added various barks to give the woodiness.

“My favorite cocktails are the Last Word with Chartreuse or an Army & Navy with orgeat and verjuice.”

Alex uses a one-shot distillation. “I tried lots of different spirits, including grape, rye, wheat, and molasses, before deciding on barley because of its softness.”

It’s a family enterprise. Alex’s parents- Corinne and ex-industrial engineer and business consultant Peter, help distill in their Surrey home while their brother, Michael, designed the bottle and a cousin constructed the website.

“My art school experience helped. I went to Shelley Park art school in Bournemouth. Then onto Surrey Institute of Art & Design. I studied sculpture for five years. That has helped my drinks creation and liquid formulation. I started my career as an artist and tended bars to pay for my studio rent. I started in Covent Garden and worked for Dick Bradsell, credited with inventing the Espresso and Bramble cocktails. There was always a drink inside me! And my family behind me.”

Alex’s drinks are stocked by Harvey Nichols, Fortnum & Mason, Whisky Exchange, and available on-line. www.kammandsons.com

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Kamm & Sons, a Great British Aperitif