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Plum together

16 June 2022
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Photo: Kate Battersby

Things are coming up plums for Annabel Langbein, who shares her latest creation and a plum-based recipe with Style. Interview Josie Steenhart Recipe Annabel Langbein

Using handpicked wild plums from her property in Dublin Bay, Wānaka, New Zealand’s favourite foodie Annabel Langbein recently launched gin elixir Bella in collaboration with Queenstown distillery Broken Heart Spirits.

How did your (delicious) Bella gin elixir come to fruition (from idea to actual process)?

I’ve always entertained the idea of our little cabin here in Dublin Bay being a distillery, but actually we live there so that’s a no-go. But this idea of making really high-quality unique beverages has always been in
my mind…

I think being in Sicily about 20 years ago and tasting some of the amazing digestif spirits and aperitifs they make there at home that were so delicious and so unique, made me think, yes, I can do this.

And then a few years later I was invited to the Slanted Door restaurant in San Francisco, and after dinner the owners invited me to their bar across the road. It was a bourbon bar and they went all around America buying these craft bourbons often from moonshiners. I thought, wow, this is so much fun.

Back home in Dublin Bay we started picking wild plums from the reserve and from old deserted orchards and making this infused gin. We made the first batch back in 2015, maybe 2014 even.

Then we got to know Joerg from Broken Heart and he was making some delicious fruit liqueurs and
he said, “Why don’t we do this together?” It’s such a brilliant collaboration. Joerg is a master distiller,
he’s like a poet in the way he puts spirits together with these complex, rich flavour profiles.

Sometimes I will go around there and he will have been up all night experimenting with some
new brew – I think it was absinthe last time. Bags of herbs and spices and this incredible chartreuse
green booze. He’s so curious and so committed to everything being 100 per cent plus. We could not
have a better partner.

It’s taken us more than three years to get to the point of having a bottle ready for sale. There’s just
so much work, not just in refining the recipe but working through the brand and the packaging – as
is the case with lots of new projects there were glitches all along the way. But now Bella is finally
here and I feel so proud.

What makes Bella so special?

We decided to call it Bella as that’s the name my friends call me. It’s something very personal and hand
crafted. It’s something we love having in our cellar to bring out for friends, or to give as a special gift.
We are hoping to eventually have three flavours of Bella made with different fruits, each with their
own unique taste and story.

The alcohol content is 25% so it’s much lighter than traditional spirits. This was a conscious decision, we wanted to make something that wouldn’t get you plastered drinking, and it seems very popular with the millennials. In fact I’ve been a bit taken aback by how much everyone loves it… I mean you love it because
you’ve made it and put your heart and soul into it, but Bella seems to hit the spot with men and women, across every generation. It gives me so much pleasure to know how much it is being enjoyed – and going forward, hopefully all over the globe.

Bella sour recipe

For when you want to take Bella up a notch, this is our take on an amaretto sour.

Photo: Kate Battersby

SERVES 2
READY IN 5 MINUTES

INGREDIENTS:
• 60ml Bella gin elixir
• 2 tablespoons amaretto
• 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice, strained
• 1 egg white
• ice cubes
• dried rose petals, to garnish (optional)

METHOD

  1. Place your glasses in the freezer to chill for 30 minutes. If you’re tight for time, we like to quickly rinse the glasses with water, then place them, wet, in the freezer for 5 minutes. Don’t do this with
    super-fine crystal or it will break.
  2. Place Bella, amaretto, lemon juice, and egg white in a cocktail shaker. Add ice cubes and shake vigorously until the mixture is completely chilled and foamy.
  3. Use a cocktail strainer to strain into your chilled glasses and garnish with rose petals, if using.
  4. Sip the night away.
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