Looking forward to Spring

This can be an interesting time of year, festivities are well behind us and spring is somewhere on the horizon for the optimists among us, though not close enough for many. Flowers and their fruit are generally still months off and the hedgerows can still be fairly sparse pickings in the hibernation of winter. I’d count myself among the optimists though and at Poco we’re already giving ourselves over to preparing for the explosion of green that’s on its way. Looking forward, I thought i’d share one of our favourites and a time honoured pillar of the Poco cocktail repertoire- the Beech Leaf Noyau (pronounced Noy-Ya).

This drink is nicknamed the ‘Sloe Gin of the spring’ because, while it doesn’t perhaps have the same reputation or popularity that Sloe Gin has acquired, there are many seasoned foragers and home brewers who feel, myself among them, that it should have its place on the kitchen shelf right along side its autumnal brother. As Sloe Gin is to the autumn, with droves of city dwellers and country folk alike making bee lines toward the nearest hedgerows, so to the first tender silken leaves of the beech trees should have us all running for the nearest broad leafed woods with a pocket full of carrier bags.

Its name, Noyau, is a french word for a traditional drink of brandy flavoured with a bittering agent, most often almonds or apricot pits. This classic foraged variation uses gin and brandy as the base spirits and the young leaves of Beech to bitter it, giving it a delicate herbal note that makes it a versatile ingredient in many cocktails.

When it comes to foraging the ingredients of your Noyau there really is no comparison to the gathering of sloe berries. Where the fruit of the Blackthorn tree are defended by the sharpest and most unfriendly thorns in the hedgerow, the young leaves of the Beech tree are like little petals of silk before they mature to a lush vibrant green and the trees are covered in them! You want enough young green leaves to fill whatever vessel you plan on making the Noyau in.

For the sake of this recipe let’s assume we’re making our Noyau in a 1l storage jar, the quantities can easily be multiplied- at Poco I make it in 4.5l demijohns and fill three of them.

If your in a hurry to taste it you could be drinking your Noyau in just over a fortnight, however it is worth letting it sit for as long as you can, as it does improve with age and anticipation is the mother of all appetite after all. When the time does come to drink your Noyau, it’s a very versatile ingredient that can add depth and complexity to any number of cocktails and an exotic kick to your pimms come summer. That said I still feel the best way to drink it is as an aperatif, neat and on ice.

Follow these instructions to try making your own and for further advice, recipes or to let us know how you’ve mixed yours, leave a comment or tweet us @eatpoco

  • 1l Storage Jar
  • Colander
  • Funnel
  • 700ml Gin, we use Boxer Gin from the Green Box Drink Company but any will work.
  • 200ml Brandy, we use our local Somerset Cider Brandy
  • 150ml Agave syrup or 150g natural cane sugar.
  • Beech Leaves, enough to fill the storage jar- no need to press them down, just let them settle in as they will.
  1. Fill your vessel with the leaves.
  2. Pour in all of the gin and seal the jar.
  3. leave in a cool place out of sunlight for a fortnight, agitating daily. by the end of the two weeks the gin should have taken on a clear green hue like green tea will have extracted the best of the flavour from the leaves.
  4. strain out the leaves using the colander and return to the jar.
  5. add the brandy and thoroughly mix it in.

Here is where personal taste dictates completion of your Noyau. Taste your drink before adding the the agave. You may we like it as it is and if you are planning on experimenting with it in mixed drinks and cocktails then leaving it like this gives it a lot more versatility. You can always add sweetness later on but you won’t be able to remove it.

  1. If you decide you want to, add half of the agave and stir until dissolved.
  2. Taste again and if more sweetness would suit your palate then add the remaining agave and stir.
  3. once you are content with the level of sweetness and the agave is combined and dissolved the Noyau is complete. label your jar and return to a cool dark place until you’re ready to drink it.





All images © Benjamin Pryor
Posted by: Ben Pryor on January 24, 2014 @ 5:07 pm
Filed under: Our Food,Seasonal Drinks

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