With bartender-made liqueurs getting a lot of love as of late, bartender Alex Kratena has turned his attention to another often-overlooked product: cordial. Kratena has teamed up with syrup brand Monin to release Paragon Cordials, a new single-botanical range centred on the flavours of different peppers and peppercorns from around the world.
‘When you talk about pepper, you usually look at it from a botanical perspective. But [when you look at it this way], you’re often just describing its physical properties. I wanted to look at it from a culinary point of view,’ Kratena said, speaking at a tasting of the range at Tayer + Elementary, the east London bar he opened earlier this year with Monica Berg.
Tasting the range
- Timur is the most approachable of the bunch. It has a bright, vibrant hit of grapefruit, followed by the earthy quality of woody herbs and the bitterness of grapefruit.
- White Penja is the most challenging and interesting. A musky nose gives way to an animalistic palate, with some citrus but even more pleasantly earthy notes – think mulch and freshly turned soil. At the tasting, Kratena served it with a measure of aquavit, and Penja’s heat brought an effervescent quality that lifted and balanced the short serve.
- Our favourite is Rue, though we found it the most difficult to pin down. It boasts a citrusy backbone, with vegetal, piney notes layered atop and a mouth-puckering acidity.
The Paragon range has launched with three expressions: Timur, which hails from Ethiopia; White Penja from Cameroon; and Rue from Nepal. To source the peppers, Kratena travelled to each location.
Then, to get maximum flavour from the peppercorns, Kratena and the Monin team used three different extraction processes: CO2, infusion and redistillation.
‘Each extraction method captures a different part of the aromatic profile,’ he explained.
Kratena also highlighted the importance of acidity in the cordials. During his time in Cameroon, he tried oku white honey, which gains a slight sourness from gluconic acid. He decided to use this acid in the cordials for ‘its superior long-lasting effect’.
Kratena was drawn to the peppers and honey because of their distinctive flavours – but ultimately, he views their use as part of a wider mission of preservation.
‘If we don’t use ingredients like these, farmers will just stop planting them because they’re not profitable. They’ll use the land to grow bananas instead, and bartenders won’t have as many flavours to work with.’
£22/48.5cl, Monin UK