A couple of months back, in the run up to RHS Chelsea Flower Show, I received an email about The Monty Don Mocktail... A) I'm not overly into gardening (I live in a top floor flat), and B) Mocktails? Seriously? Give me booze. Especially now.
Anyway, this one was slightly different. They kicked off with a pun; "vibrant summer flavours to get your taste buds into a blooming frenzy." Then they went all innuendo; "think juicy strawberry coulis swirled into Qcumber water (dubbed the most fun you can have with a cucumber" - you what?! - "a swipe of torn mint leaves, and a sprinkle of Womersley Strawberry and Mint vinegar for zing."
I was sold. Though, whilst I wasn't too bothered about making the mocktail, I was interested in this Qcumber sparkling drink.
We've briefly mentioned Qcumber on Vinspire before, way back in 2013 when it first launched, later being named the most innovative new product at one of the country’s largest industry events. Who'd have thunk it? Still, we only previously touched the surface; there's much more to this summertime sip!
Qcumber was born out of one of those rare ‘eureka’ moments (aided by alcohol no less). One evening the makers were out in the garden, enjoying a delicious G&T that was garnished with slices of crisp cucumber... DING! "This could be the next flavour!" So after a lot of hard work, Qcumber - a cucumber flavoured sparkling drink - saw the light of day.
Using only a natural, pure cucumber distillate and zero artificial nasties (no sweeteners, colours, preservatives and flavourings), this is a soft drink that you shouldn't feel ashamed to drink. Simply carbonated spring water, cucumber extract, beet sugar and citric acid, coming in at just 26 calories per 100ml; barely anything in comparison to it's rival products!
The makers of Qcumber gone to extra effort to make sure that the water they use is the best quality too. The source of the spring water lies in the old county of Radnorshire in Mid Wales; "in this unspoilt rural area, the water is able to filter naturally through layers of rock to achieve its exceptional taste and purity." I'm no water connoisseur, but I'll gladly accept that.
Qcumber brands itself as being a versatile drink - great on its own but also perfect as a mixer - so having been sent a sample, I thought I'd test out this versatility.
On it's own, it has a fresh and clean taste. Cucumber-y, obvs, but not too "green", and it has a really lovely citrusy tang, which I wasn't expecting. I think that's where similar drinks go wrong; they always make things overly sweet, and your mouth gets bored of that after a while. But lets get to the good stuff… Cocktails!
Qcumber has a number of cocktail recipes listed on their website (I've included some at the bottom of this post), but it's always nice to experiment, so I've concocted a couple for you… Firstly, Ps & Qs; Poitin (the infamous Irish moonshine) mixed with a splash of lemon juice, sugar syrup and topped with Qcumber. Poitin is punchy (the Teeling one I used is 61.5%!) but it's an interesting, non-dominating flavour. Whilst still being a strong drink, the cucumber seemed to cool down the spirit, making it a good contender for an aperitif.
Secondly, I went straight down the summer route with gin and elderflower. There was no doubt that this wouldn't be heavenly. Summer Retox: a good measure of Dodd's Gin, with it's honey notes, a slug of floral Chase Elderflower Liqueur, a squeeze of lemon and a pour of Qcumber… All that's missing is the sun.
Be cool as a Qcumber and try these out. You can pick up a bottle from selected Tesco stores!
Ps & Qs
Juice of half a lemon
15ml sugar syrup
Qcumber to top
Fill a tumbler with ice. Add the Poitin, lemon juice and sugar syrup. Stir, then top with Qcumber.
20ml Elderflower Liqueur (or cordial)
Juice of half a lemon
Qcumber to top
Fill a highball glass with ice. Add gin,elderflower and lemon. Stir and top with Qcumber. Preferably drink with a stripy straw!
1 lime, quartered
2 sprigs fresh mint leaves
1 tablespoon white sugar
2 slices cucumber 6 cubes ice, or as needed
2 ounces white rum (such as Bacardi)
4 fluid ounces chilled Qcumber
Squeeze the lime quarters into a highball glass, and drop the limes into the glass. Add the mint leaves and sugar. Muddle well with the back of a spoon or with a muddler. Place the cucumber slices into the glass, and fill with ice cubes. Pour in the rum, then top off with Qcumber.
60ml Qcumber Sparkling water
60ml Tanqueray Gin
1/4 cup mint leaves
15ml lime juice
Add mint and lime leaves to a cocktail shaker, and muddle well to release mint flavor. Fill shaker with ice, followed by gin and sake. Shake vigorously. Fill mug with crushed ice. Finely strain liquid from shaker into mug and over the crushed ice. Top with Qcumber Sparking Water.
The Monty Don
50ml Strawberry Coulis
1 tsp of Womersley Strawberry & mint
25ml sugar syrup
6 large mint leaves
100ml of Qcumber water
Gently jostle your mint leaves in a tumbler glass then drizzle the strawberry coulis, vinegar and sugar syrup over crushed ice. Stir and serve under a clear blue sky.