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June 28, 2018

Imperial Measures releases Ruby Bitter

An Adelaide-made bitter aperitif, designed with Negroni in mind.

  • Words: Johnny von Einem
  • Pictures: Supplied

Exactly what makes up the industry standard bitter aperitif, Campari, is a complete and purposeful mystery, and therein lies its appeal – at least for bartenders-slash-distillers, David Danby and Chris Jones of Imperial Measures Distilling.

“There’s no way of knowing what’s in Campari, to the extent that the three people on Earth that know the recipe are not allowed to fly on the same planes,” David says.

“It’s pretty crazy in that sense. There are still, to this day, certain ingredients that go into Campari, which are delivered in brown paper bags to the owner’s house.”

Rather than let that theatrical puzzle be, with their Thebarton production facility now up and running, David and Chris have taken the classic apart and built their own take on it – the Ruby Bitter.

Making use of gentian, rhubarb, ruby red grapefruit (from which Ruby gets her name), vanilla, beetroot (for an “earthy quality”), and eight-or-so more ingredients, the Imperial Measures bitter has been designed to be a bartender’s best friend.

“With our hospitality background, especially with cocktails, balancing a bitter in a Negroni so you can do that 30:30:30 ratio and not have to adjust it was pretty important to us. We wanted the product to be useable in that format,” David says.

This is not the first iteration of Ruby, about 18 months ago the duo released a product, distributed mostly throughout their industry networks, that “was very much on the heavy bitter side of things. It was pretty full-on,” David laughs.

“Profile-wise, [this version is] the same. The ingredients are all the same, so the flavour itself is almost identical, it’s just a balance adjustment, really. And it’s just to make it more approachable for wider society… It’s got quite a bitter, long finish on it, which is what we definitely wanted.”

We at CityMag HQ don’t mind a Negroni, and even more so when the components are ADL-made.

“I absolutely love a Negroni,” Chris says, speaking our language, “so the concept of being able to make the components of a Negroni was a big drawcard.

“The richness and intensity [makes it perfect for a Negroni], to be honest. But the balance, the balance is key.”

Aperitifs and digestifs – or amari, as the broader category is known – are yet to properly take off in the domestic market, but it’s a swelling trend showing signs of breaking soon. Ruby won’t be the last product Imperial Measures introduces in this subset of spirits.

“We’re going to do something a bit more mellow, so something that could be used in a spritzer style, and then probably something more down the digestif path, something bigger and richer and more herbal,” David says.

In the shorter term, a second Ounce Gin is set for release, called Bold, it contrasts against the more approachable Signature gin that the distillery is known for.

“Signature, [which has] orange, vanilla, cardamom, a little more restrained on the juniper than some of the other products on the market… So that product would be termed new world, I guess. Contemporary,” David says.

“Whereas this product goes in the other direction, so it’s heavy juniper, herbal, savoury style. Much more traditional, but definitely with that herbal, savoury swing to it.”

Ounce Gin Bold is expected to hit back bars and bottle shops in about a month, and you can find Ruby Bitter now at East End Cellars, Parade Cellars, and the Ed Cellars in Mitcham (distributed via La Cantina Australia).

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