The so-called surprise fact that everybody knows by now, that ‘tomatoes are actually fruit, you know’, wasn’t news to anyone looking for a non-alcoholic drink in a pub back in the day. Tomato juice always sounded savoury, but it was so obviously packed with sugar, how could it be anything but a fruit? Hence the addition of Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco, celery salt, pepper – anything to balance out that sweetness.
Tongue in Peat’s version adds an ingredient that gives complexity and earthiness to what can otherwise be a cloying juice – and has the Great Taste awards to prove it. Founder Hannah Fisher developed the idea in her years as a brand manager and marketeer for various spirits – including smoky Islay whiskies Bowmore and Laphroaig – specifically, she says, at late breakfasts the day after a promotional event! Apparently, those on the ‘yes please’ side of the Marmite-esque question of peated whisky often overlap with the group who like a bloody mary for brunch.
Fisher and her team experimented with different sources of peat, temperatures and smoking durations. As Brummell explored in our recent round-up of new smoky whiskies, there are subtle differences to peat reek’s effect on barley, and evidently that applies to tomatoes too. The biggest influence is the make-up of the flora that, millennia ago, became peat. Eventually, Fisher decided on classic Islay peat, with its famous – and divisive – medicinal and maritime notes. Tongue in Peat cold-smokes a percentage of the tomatoes in the recipe for 12 hours.
After that, it turned out that the owners of fast-turnaround contract bottling lines weren’t that keen on having a sticky, strong-flavoured fruit juice running through their systems. So, after being repeatedly turned away, Fisher decided to build her own factory, to incorporate a kiln for tomatoes as well as the liquid production and bottling. The Start-Up Drinks Lab is now available to other entrepreneurs who have a challenging drinks concept to realise.
Tasting notes: Brummell found the effect of the peat was not to make the juice overtly smoky or ‘barbecued’ but to up the umami levels and intensity – almost as if it had been pre-mixed with Worcestershire sauce and lemon juice. One of our tasters dislikes smoked foods but wasn’t put off at all. Oddly enough, adding Lea & Perrins and Tabasco actually increased the smoky notes. And, breaking the Dry January streak in the name of research, another taster discovered the Tongue in Peat juice worked even better in a proper bloody mary when vodka was added.
Tongue in Peat 500ml bottles are priced at £15.99 for three, £24.99 for six; tongueinpeat.com