The little box arrived unexpected, so I didn’t know what I might find inside. Within the bubble wrap were two little brown bottles stating quite plainly, and with no fan fare, what was inside each of them. But the thing that really got me thinking were the words Berry Bros. & Rudd above the contents. Let me tell you when and where I first heard that name.

In the summer of 1997, I moved into downtown San Francisco and rented an apartment on the highest hill in that very hilly city. Actually, it was more of a mountain called Twin Peaks and was just off the southern edge of the city. My apartment building was literally strapped to the side of a precipitous cliff. From my living room, I could look down upon the city in all its glory. I was at a level just slightly above the tops of the skyscrapers downtown and could see the entire city below: the bay, the Bay Bridge and across the Bay to Oakland on the other side. Believe me when I tell you, I paid dearly for that view, but it was worth every penny.

One sunny Saturday afternoon, I climbed down from my perch and was rummaging around Russian Hill when I spied a tall lanky woman in a red and yellow summer dress wearing the biggest straw hat I had ever seen. She looked just like a wild sunflower that had fallen off of a Van Gogh canvas. I was drawn to her like a honey bee that had discovered a ripe flower and had to fly over and take in its nectar and cross pollinate it. That was the beginning of an intense but brief fling. She was a flight attendant and a CPA, which led her to flights of meticulously controlled fantasy. She flew international routes and during a layover in London popped over to Berry Bros. & Rudd and bought an exquisite bottle of cognac and presented it to me upon her return. Along with that cognac, she handed me a small catalog from Berry Bros. & Rudd. The next day, after thanking her profusely and repeatedly all night, I took the remains of the bottle and the catalog back up the hill to my home.

Berry Bros. & Rudd is not your ordinary run of the mill corner liquor store. In the first place, they have been around for over 300 years having been established in 1698. They began serving the Royal Family in the 1700’s during the reign of King George the 3rd and continue to do so even today. They created Cutty Sark Scots Whiskey in 1923 and have been at it ever since crafting spirits of all sorts. Their selection is second to none and it’s the type of shop where you can drop $20.00 or $20,000.00 or more, much more.

So as you can see, after all that, I was very curious to see what the Berry boys had sent me to try.

Berry Bros. & Rudd King’s Ginger Liqueur 750ml, 41% ABV about $40.00

Here is their description of the King’s Ginger:

The King’s Ginger is the emphatically ginger liqueur that was specifically formulated by Berry Bros. in 1903 for King Edward VII. Rich and zesty, it was created to stimulate and revivify His Majesty and has been appreciated by bon viveurs ever since. The King’s Ginger is created by the careful maceration of ginger root enlivened by the judicious addition of citrus in the form of lemon peel. Although warming and heartening on a cold day as originally intended, it is a splendidly uplifting tonic to be enjoyed on its own all year round as well as in any number of cocktails and long drinks.”

Here’s my take on it: After swirling it around, I notice that it is viscous in nature and clings nicely to the sides of the glass. It is an inviting pale golden color and provides a subtle gingery nose with background highlights of citrus. As I sip it, it imparts an overall ginger flavor to my entire mouth that I found quite pleasing and then reinforces that initial take with a touch of citrusy spice that is “orangey” in flavor. It is tangy on the tongue with a bright spicy finish. I could certainly imagine myself sipping this straight up while sitting in front of a roaring fire after a day’s skiing. I tried it on the rocks with Vernor’s ginger ale and they complimented each other beautifully. This could certainly become my new winter drink of choice.

Berry Bros. & Rudd No. 3 London Dry Gin 46% ABV about $55.00

Again, here is their description:

No.3 is the London Dry Gin distilled to a proprietary recipe of Berry Bros. & Rudd, London’s oldest wine and spirit merchant. The name No.3 refers to the address in St James’s Street, London: our home since 1698. No.3 was created to be the last word in gin for a Dry Martini. ‘A Taste of Tradition’.”

And here’s my take on it: In the glass it is deceptively translucent and bears the appearance of water. It possesses an inveterate nose of bright junipers and muted floral notes. It’s not overpowering while not being underwhelming, conservative yet solid. Citrus notes follow juniper around my tongue in an interesting dance. It is warm on the tongue and gives a slight nip as it eases down the throat. It makes a very nice traditional martini using just a drop of Vermouth and garnished with three olives and it also made an excellent dirty martini as well.

By George Brozowski

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