Day of the Dead with Jose Cuervo, Southwark

A convoluted walk through Southwark to the OXO Tower Creative Spaces brings us to the enormous art gallery that is the Bargehouse. Serving up some Day of the Dead realness, Jose Cuervo is another in the line (like last week’s El Nivel, click HERE for review!) of tequila events leading up to the Tequila Fest 2014, sponsored by the Mexican Embassy in London. From the 30th Oct to 2nd Nov, artwork is geared to depicting the Day of the Dead and with themes of the passed and loss, accompanied by drinks provided by Jose Cuervo tequila. Also included in the festival are Jose Cuervo masterclasses, a variety of children’s art and crafts workshops, and a screening of The Day of The Dead 1984 cinema classic, “Under the Volcano”.

Entering the gallery to a mindblowing DotD float crowned in sugar skulls and marigolds, traditional to Dia de los Muertos, guests make their way through the sprawling galleries to finally the two Jose Cuervo bars serving up a small selection of tequila drinks to accompany you through the artwork. As per 2014’s obsession with the drink, Frozen Margaritas make an appearance, as do Palomas and Sours, all priced at a perfect 6.50 GBP.

The Paloma is standard, but worth it at the price, but the star of the night would be Tradicional Sour, A tequila sour with egg white and fig puree – a much better choice than infusion since the perfectly seasonal, ripe sweetness of the fig comes through excellently. A must try this weekend!

Muer2

Drinks wise, yes, it is an event to definitely visit. Art was enjoyable, but I couldn’t help but feel that the event did not capture both aspects of the Dia de los Muertos. True, there is a remembrance and honouring of those that passed, with an appreciation for feelings of loss and grief; but there is also celebration in their memory, and in terms of the art here, the festivities are lost with the artwork being predominantly focused on grief, old age and suffering, and even horror. This may or may not have led to the rather sombre attitude of the crowd most of the night.

Nonetheless, great pieces of artwork, with excellent drinks at 6.50 – what’s not to love?

Enjoy your Dia de los Muertos all, and a Happy Halloween!

Bargehouse

Bargehouse Street, South Bank
London SE1 9PH

http://www.oxotower.co.uk/events/day-dead/

Cecil’s UFF Tea Ball, London Bridge

Type of Bar: Basement, Vintage
Damage££
Ideal for: Party, Date, Small Groups, Large Groups, Birthdays

 

Tucked away down the industrial alleyway of 8 Holyrood Street, Cecil’s is a basement venue that on weekends goes from bar to 1930s glam with their galas. With Cecil himself on stage and the wonderfully charismatic Jim McMahon as host, the night wasn’t short of incredible entertainment and fantastic service. We have been to Cecil’s before, as we covered their Paris in London Grand Marnier pop up in London Cocktail Week (Click HERE for review!).

Cecil's

The UFF Tea Ball is characterised by its focus on the 30s and formal wear (always a good excuse to throw on a tux), with varying themes now and again, this time: 1930s Shanghai; with Cecil singing classic tunes on stage in front of a small dancefloor, two large booths on either side of the room and a scattering of tables among the indoor foliage.

Greeted at the door with an Oolong tea based punch, downstairs we begin with a New York of the East: Maker’s Mark Bourbon, a splash of Umeshu plum wine, sugar, bitters, orange twist. Essentially an Old Fashioned with Umeshu, it brought a brightness to the classic, with a lasting earthiness in the aftertaste. An interesting twist. The Cecil’s Rum Swizzle is one of those effortless and classic drinks that demands no pretention or fascination, and in many ways epitomises the style of Cecil’s cocktails, it’s quietly confident and here to get the job done: Santa Teresa Claro rum, Velvet Falernum, spiced sugar syrup from Barbados, lime juice, bitters. I’m going to go ahead and assume the ‘spiced sugar syrup from Barbados’ is the spiced sugar cane syrup that is mixed in with rum to make Velvet Falernum, but I could be wrong. What you get is a clean, soft cocktail that really is a quintessential rum swizzle.

 

The New York of the East

The New York of the East

The star of the evening would definitely be the Aperitif No. 20: El Jimador Reposado tequila, lemon, marmalade, sugar, splash of Kamm and Sons – bright, spry, lively, and effervescent. Citrusy, but only the best of ways, the tart sweetness of the marmalade and warm earthiness of the Kamm and Sons preventing a dreadful leap into sourness.

 

There was, still a hiccup with the Cecil’s Club Vodka Highball, which might appeal to some, but came off a bit *too* plain: Belenkaya Vodka, Umeshu, stripped cucumber, soda. Besides a distant umeshu after-taste, my bias against this might be the same reason I dislike so many of Hendrick’s Gin signature drinks, you could just eat a cucumber with a shot of vodka. So I am reluctant to judge this harshly since it could be a personal dislike, although it wasn’t a hit across the table for its plainness.

L-R: Cecil's Rum Swizzle; Cecil's Club Vodka Highball

L-R: Cecil’s Rum Swizzle; Cecil’s Club Vodka Highball

Service-wise, as aforementioned, Cecil’s was flawless. Especially with their hosting and shout outs of several birthday parties that seem to take place there. Maybe a *slightly* stricter policy on the formal dress code, after all, ticket holders paid for an event to come out in gowns and tuxes, and the random fellow with shades indoors and his shirt hanging out over his jeans is bit of a dampener – but I suppose everyone needs comic relief.

In short? Cecil’s UFF Tea Ball provides a stimulating night out without the oppressiveness of say, the Blitz Ball, or the general offishness of most of the London Vintage scene. Along with fabulous hosts, and simple, classic cocktails, it’s definitely worth a knees up.

Drinks: ***
Atmosphere: ****
Service: *****

 

Cecil’s

8 Holyrood Street,
London, SE1 2EL.

http://www.cecilslondon.com/

City of London Distillery, Blackfriars

Type of Bar: Basement, Ginstitute
Damage££
Ideal for: Gin, Date, Small Groups, Large Groups, After Work, Education

COLD is a rare gem in the City of London, opened in 2012, it finally brought back the distilling of gin to the City after 200 years – and boy do they take it seriously. Climbing down the stairs on unassuming Bride Lane, you’ll walk past their enormous copper stills, Clarissa and Jennifer, on display, which play part of the many Gin Experiences they provide: from tours, flights and tastings, to ginstitutes and making your own gin.

The atmosphere at COLD certainly is one of a late night bar. Dark green walls with an impressively stocked bar and vintage paraphernalia bask in the glow of the stills’ lighting. Further back the sense of being underground heightens, as the Hoodooist hunted down the winged leather Chesterfield armchair in the corner (as one does).

 

COLD's 'Distiller's Martini'

COLD’s ‘Distiller’s Martini’

They are known for their gins made in situ, including the award winning City of London Dry Gin that is also for sale – a well-balanced gin, with tendency to citrus, the distinct flavours of the liquorice, pink grapefruit and orange come through in this spirit, making it a very interesting choice for a:

COLD Distiller’s Martini: City of London Dry gin, Mancino Bianco with a pink grapefruit twist. As aforementioned, the gin is already fairly grapefruit-heavy, so pairing it with the garnish, and a more bitter vermouth that is distinctly flavoured with grapefruit and orange was a bold choice. The gin gives a slight pepperiness to the Martini, but one must acknowledge the overwhelming grapefruit of the drink – moreso than any of the other cocktails here serving up CoL Dry gin. It provides a decidedly smooth Martini that only isn’t to my taste because of the overdone grapefruit, although I did take to it more after getting the garnish out.

A winning drink coming up was a White Martinez, Cocchi Americano, City of London Dry Gin, Luxardo Maraschino, dash of Regans Orange Bitters, maraschino cherry garnish dropped in. This is excellent, but also very sweet, even in comparison to most Martinez’. The orange bitters really does come through with the grapefruit of the CoL gin; combatting with the thick sweetness of the Cocchi Americano and Luxardo Maraschino. Further down the drink, the cherry gets a chance to release its sugars into the drink for further sweetness. Somehow still a wonderful drink regardless of its intense sugariness – but one that takes time to drink.

COLD's 'Cristal Clear Martinez'

COLD’s ‘Cristal Clear Martinez’

Chatting with our absolutely wonderful server, a bespoke Gin Old Fashioned was concocted, and was exactly that – an Old Fashioned with Beefeater Borrough’s Reserve Oak Rested Gin – sugar, bitters, grapefruit rind. A sophisticated cocktail often avoided by most bars, using a gin avoided by many gin purists, handled well and confidently, here at COLD. Probably more suitable to a drink like this, Beefeater Borrough’s is rested in French Oak barrels that used to contain Lillet Vermouth, that adds to the gin’s juniper and citrus notes of oaky vanilla, and winter spices like cinnamon or nutmeg. This gin certainly isn’t a Martini gin, but a wonderful idea to use it as a Gin Old Fashioned. Inspired.

After those 3 successful drinks, though, there was one hiccup – the OMG & Tea was a warning with the name, really. CoL Old Tom Gin, Bitter Truth Golden Falernum, Merlet Crème de Peche, Breakfast tea, lemon juice, soda water, garnished with mint and lemon. It ended up being a confused muddle of citrus soda at the end of it.  Honestly though, this is a drink that is a warning from the outset, so it was silly to try it.

What COLD does best, is present sophisticated, alcohol heavy drinks – the menu’s occasional attempts into more ‘fun’ cocktail regions come with risk upon reading the ingredients.

The highlight of the night though, was the incredibly knowledgeable and convivial service. Conversing with our servers was a delight, and a highly educational experience. Polite, attentive, the staff are stars.

COLD

In summary, COLD is a unique gem in the heart of London’s business sector, and has won awards with good reason. Providing an incredible list of experiences and events, besides their unique gins, makes it a destination in itself. It’s strength lies in its simpler, more sophisticated drinks that demand skill and finesse to construct, and in its wonderful service. A hit in our books.

Drinks: ****
Atmosphere: ***
Service: *****

 

City of London Distillery

24 Bride Lane,
London, EC4Y 8DT

http://cityoflondondistillery.com/

Tequila Fest 2014 Preview @ Agaveria El Nivel

There are many ambassadors of Mexico to the UK,” announces the Mexican Ambassador behind the bar, “Tequila is one of them.

Working alongside event organisers, the Tequila Festival in London is being proposed almost as a diplomatic event – with good reason. Though the wide-spread drinking of tequila and the recent emergence of Mezcalerias like 184 Hackney Road are known well enough, a connoisseurial culture of the spirit never completely blossomed in the Isles. “This is a no salt or lime zone”, stresses Festival organiser Eduardo Gomez as we grab our Mexican passports.

Literally.

Literally.

Hosted at Agaveria El Nivel, one of the Hoodooist’s favourite openings this year (Click HERE for review!), the press preview brought forward a spectacular crowd to taste a large variety of tequilas & mezcals, either neat or in a margarita. A few fantastic discoveries in the world of tequila for the Hoodooist, such as Ambar’s selection of Blanco, Reposado, Anejo and Extra Anejo; where the aging of tequila isn’t dissimilar to that of cognacs, as the vanilla and wood notes begin to grow over time. Delightfully smooth, the Extra Anejo is a fantastic sipping tequila.

It also works surprisingly well in cocktails – a Tommy’s Margarita bursts with flavour here, and saved the Hoodooist’s butt in a cocktail competition that evening. Who knew that a blander Margarita made with a blanco tequila of an unnamed company can be spruced to life with a splash of Ambar Extra Anejo? Definitely remembering that concoction.

Ocho Tequila obviously makes an appearance – but I still vote for its use in cocktails moreso than to sip.

Siete Misterios still a winning mezcal for me, as is the Del Maguey, which I discovered at the Cocktails in the City show (Click HERE for review!). And whereas I was recommended the Papadiablo, it came off a bit harsh on the throat for myself.

On the note of mezcals, you can’t go wrong with a nicely smoky Del Maguey Tommy’s Margarita.

After the food provided by El Nivel (incredible as usual) was demolished by the now slightly staggering clientele of the room, the Hoodooist retires to the bar for a cheeky little sip of a Fortaleza Tequila – who knows when he’ll get a chance with this rarely-seen-outside-Mexico tequila. On the nose the warm pine is almost identical to the interior of a Swedish sauna, strangely; with smooth length, and sandalwood aftertaste. Unlike any other tequila tasted that day. Incredible.

Opinion of the night? Fantastic execution, one of the better press nights I’ve been to in a while, so major thanks to the organisers and Cutlass Communications! If the organisers keep this up, I can’t deny that Tequila Fest is going to be an incredible weekend that I’m already looking forward to!

“The Tequila Fest will educate you in the customs of production and consumption and engulf you in the taste, smells, sounds and sights of true Mexico. There are few spirits with a more rich and fascinating lineage. Get to grips with the technical jargon, the process of distillation and the bounty of care that goes into every single bottle.” Also featuring blind tastings, cocktail tutorials and masterclasses, and what the ambassador calls, “Real tequila.”
UPDATE: London Tequila Fest 2014 has been reviewed! Click HERE.

http://www.tequilafest.co.uk/

London Cocktail Week ’14, Day SIX: The End, and Best of the Week

Welcome back to the recap of the sixth day of London Cocktail Week 2014! Wield a red or white wristband and enjoy the discounts/events that LCW has to offer!

This year the Hoodooist will be bringing you #YourDailyDoseOfHoodoo, a daily review of each day of London Cocktail Week ’14.

Today we look at October 11th: Where the Hoodooist and friends return to London Bridge for a final hurrah to LCW14.

Having exhausted ourselves over the course of the week, Saturday marks our final night of participation, leaving Sunday for you, dear readers, to revel in using our reviews so far as a guide.

7.30PM: Our finale for the week is a return to Cecil’s hosting two events on the night: besides their LCW cocktail offer, the Paris in London Grand Marnier pop up, and the bar’s usual formal ball hosted by UFF Tea.

After spending the night there, I then decided that we tried enough of their house cocktail menu to merit their own full length review, coming up soon!

Cecil's UFF Tea Ball

Cecil’s UFF Tea Ball

And that’s all of #YourDailyDoseOfHoodoo for London Cocktail Week 14, kids! As an afterword, let’s have a look at bars and events that really stood out this past week.

Monday Oct 6th was a bit weak in terms of bars, but the pop up and masterclass stole the show.

The Nikka 51.4 Bar pop up at Covent Garden (Still open Sunday 12th!) presented with spectacular pre-mixed ‘Nikka From the Barrel Whisky’ cocktails, with recipes brought from bars around the world. The concept of a 4 pound 4 mini-cocktail flight is a bargain for tasters, and the drinks themselves, spectacular. In order of most to least favourite, the Nippone, Robbie Burns-San, Professor Cocktail #30, and the Bamboo Crane.

The Cognac Masterclass held by Courvoisier’s Global Ambassador, Rebecca Asseline, was most excellent. The session provided information on the making, and indeed complex architecture, of the most honourable Chateau Courvoisier – an enlightening lesson in the making, tasting, and pairing of cognac. If one gets a chance to participate, grab it.

The Nikka '51.4' Bar's Cocktail Flight

The Nikka ‘51.4’ Bar’s Cocktail Flight

Tuesday Oct 7th was by far the headiest evening of the week, defined by fantastic service overall.

Winning bar would be Merchant House, hosting a pop up with Burleigh’s Gin (the pop up is shut, but Merchant House is still offering a Burleigh’s St. Clement for LCW), whose Woodland Martinez (Burleigh’s Gin, red vermouth, mushroom bitters, absinthe) hit the jackpot for the Hoodooist’s tastes. First lightly floral, then deeply earthy and mysterious – rich in texture. Wonderful.

Grand Marnier’s Paris in London pop up at Cecil’s was firstly wonderful in their choice of drinks, with the excellent Cold Claret Punch; Grand Marnier Cordon Rouge, Cherry Marnier, Bordeaux red wine, botanicals, spices and lemon juice. The intense spiced wine moving into the sweeter cherry, ending on the Grand Marnier was for once, a long drink the Hoodooist enjoyed, and did so immensely. The evening was defined by the lovely EU Ambassador for Grand Marnier, Julien LaFond, being an gracious and generous host, introducing the Hoodooist and friends to the flavours and history of Grand Marnier and their bottles of Centenaire and Quintessence. A highlight of the week.

L-R: Grand Marnier Centenaire; Quintessence

L-R: Grand Marnier Centenaire; Quintessence

Wednesday Oct 8th was an odd night of bars the Hoodooist loves taking unnecessary risks.

But the winning drink of the evening would go to 184 Hackney Road /QuiQuiRiQui, with their Mezcal Margarita. Their signature smoky mezcal, hibiscus and cardamom syrup, lime juice and agave nectar, was a simple, laid back drink that brought out first the smokiness of the mezcal, momentary agave sweetness to the deep smokiness, but quickly resting on the hibiscus, with a slight hint of cardamom in the distance.

184 Hackney Road

184 Hackney Road

Thursday Oct 9th reminded the Hoodooist of the importance of good service, highlighted by one terrible event at the Bistrot Bruno Loubet, versus spectacular service at all the other venues of the evening.

Pop up of the evening goes to Buffalo Trace Bourbon and their excellent Pickle Jar event in the basement of The Well, Clerkenwell. Presenting the painfully smooth Rosemary Sazerac to rival some of the best in London, along with the perfectly Perfect Maraschino Manhattan (though only red vermouth was used), alongside a trio of Picklebacks, one using pickled gherkin juice, beetroot, and cucumber. A wonderful evening to be spent here.

Bar of the evening would be the City of London Distillery, with their fantastic service, and surprising vermouth-heavy Cristal Clear Martinez of Cocchi Americano, COLD London Dry gin, Luxardo Maraschino, dash of Regans Orange Bitters, maraschino cherry garnish dropped in. Rich mouthfeel, surprisingly sweet, but not overly sickly. A drink one takes time with, but won’t get bored of.

Buffalo Trace Bourbon's Pickle Jar event

Buffalo Trace Bourbon’s Pickle Jar event

Friday Oct 10th brought with it exhaustion and many puns. The winning bars are two:

First, Mele e Pere put forward the incredible apertivo, the Veneton Mess Revisited, a twist on their own Veneton Mess: homemade white vermouth, strawberry vermouth, and ginseng liqueur with a dash of lemonade. Both slightly dry with the white vermouth, yet having the richer mouthfeel of the red. First, the intense strawberry vermouth, followed by the warm citrus notes of the white, with the lemonade aftertaste.

Second, MASH (Modern American Steak House) – besides excellent service, food, and clientele – put forward the Woody Woodpecker, walnut infused Buffalo Trace bourbon, maple syrup, peach juice and Angostura bitters. The smooth Buffalo Trace comes in first as you’d imagine, playing lightly with the maple syrup. The peach makes a short-lived appearance, and the aftertaste of warm walnut envelopes. Drink quickly, the ice unfortunately dilutes and affects the flavours too harshly.

MASH's 'Woody Woodpecker'

MASH’s ‘Woody Woodpecker’

Finally, the winning drink of Saturday Oct 11th at Cecil’s UFF Tea Ball/Paris in London Grand Marnier pop up would be the Aperitif No. 20: El Jimador Reposado tequila, shaken with fresh lemon, marmalade and sugar, with a splash of Kamm & Sons ginseng. At first sight this recipe looks like running the risk of being too sweet, but what we get is a well-rounded, tart aperitif.

It is done.

It is done.

Alright! That’s our recap of Day Six and the best of London Cocktail Week 2014! I do hope it may have helped you one way or the other, dear companions, on our quest through the most magical week of the year. May the LCW shackles on your wrists take you to fantastical vistas through this glorious city.

You have one more night, TONIGHT, Sunday night, to make the most of London Cocktail Week 2014! And best you do! The Hoodooist, on the other hand, is going to curl up in bed, and forget the world exists – for #YourDailyDoseOfHoodoo LCW recaps are at an end till LCW 2015.

Nonetheless, you will still be getting your regular bar reviews from Highball Hoodoo twice a week starting 22nd October 2014 (What? I need a week off. I bloody deserve it.)

Until then, dear readers, teach your livers a lesson in Hoodoo.

Good night, and good luck.

London Cocktail Week ’14, Day FIVE: Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked

Welcome back to the recap of the fifth day of London Cocktail Week 2014! Wield a red or white wristband and enjoy the discounts/events that LCW has to offer!

This year the Hoodooist will be bringing you #YourDailyDoseOfHoodoo, a daily review of each day of London Cocktail Week ’14.

Today we look at October 10th: Where the Hoodooist and friends tackle Soho (Well, Soho-ish) .

Day Five and it’s starting to show. The bodily effects of LCW14 are coming in all their baggy eyed, dry skin’d glory. But there ain’t no rest for the wicked, till this is done and dusted for good.

So it may be a blessing in disguise when at 1.30PM: The Blind Pig at the Social Eating House couldn’t get their work in order for their cocktail, Gin Quininey, Gin Quininey, Gin Gin Yuzu. “Our ingredients finished last night, we can’t make the drink till 4PM tonight.”
Here are reasons why this is silly: Some of us are making our way to you with schedules with slots that you fit in to. Do what you promise, or don’t do anything at all.
Secondly, OVERSTOCK. A Gareth Evans joint changes its menu like every five minutes. Even if your cup runneth over and you have too many ingredients – keep serving it up after LCW is over as a limited edition drink.
Thirdly, if you couldn’t organise the above because forward-thinking isn’t one’s forte, offer another drink as an option. Or hell, maybe choose a regular drink from your menu instead of one with ingredients that might be hard to come by.
A shame since I rather enjoy the Blind Pig as a bar, as I do most of Evans’ bars.

4PM: Lunch done, and the Hoodooist already has a gelato stain on his shirt. But Amorino gelato stains are scars to be proud of. Mmm.
We find ourselves at the Carom at Meza, serving up a ‘Kill Jim’, El Jimador tequila swizzle with chilli, Mozart chocolate liqueur, Velvet Falernum and Navy Strength rum. The sweeter rum flows into the tequila before an explosion of chilli – with the chocolate playing in the background. As you’d guess, it gets spicier the longer you take to drink. The drink seems a bit overthought for me and not my thing, but was a hit with couple of friends at the table with taste for sweeter, longer drinks.

Opium's 'Down to the Baijiu'

Opium’s ‘Down to the Baijiu’

5PM: Opium Cocktail & Dim Sum Parlour (Click HERE for review!), who are serving ‘Down to the Baijiu’ according to the LCW14 literature; Baijiu, Oolong tea infused vodka, fresh lemon and pomegranate juice, almond syrup. Although our server also mentioned the ingredients chilli-infused tequila, and orgeat (instead of almond syrup, I suspect), and didn’t mention pomegranate.

So running by palette, the Baijiu was unmistakable and the opener to the drink, followed by a citrus and almond sweetness I believe is the orgeat. The oolong followed immediately behind, ending on the tequila. This incredibly sweet, but not sickly so, was pleasant and nagged me with a sense of nostalgia until somebody finally yelled “STRAWBERRY LACES!”, which is essentially what it tastes like – scarily similar. I would love this as a dessert drink, with its light mouthfeel and short serving.

Mele e Pere's 'Veneton Mess Revisited'

Mele e Pere’s ‘Veneton Mess Revisited’

6PM: Soho’s vermouth bar, Mele e Pere, presented a twist on their own drink – the Veneton Mess – with the ‘Veneton Mess Revisited’; homemade white vermouth, strawberry vermouth, and ginseng liqueur with a dash of lemonade. I love this. What I enjoyed here was the drink being both slightly dry with the white vermouth, yet having the richer mouthfeel of the red. First, the intense strawberry vermouth, followed by the warm citrus notes of the white, with the lemonade aftertaste. As usual in cocktails with strong flavours, the ginseng hides in the background (which is strange considering its intensity when drunk straight) but helps round the drink out. Made a wonderful aperitif.

MASH's 'Woody Woodpecker'

MASH’s ‘Woody Woodpecker’

7PM: The aperitif done, we found ourselves craving beef tartare at the dark, subterranean MASH. Presenting one of their own drinks, the Woody Woodpecker was walnut infused Buffalo Trace bourbon, maple syrup, peach juice and Angostura bitters. The smooth Buffalo Trace comes in first as you’d imagine, playing lightly with the maple syrup. The peach makes a short-lived appearance, and the aftertaste of warm walnut envelopes. A hit across the table, this drink is highly recommended. The only catch to it is having to drink it quickly, since the diluting ice really does steal many of the flavours if left to melt.

Food was spectacular, service was absolutely impeccable. Clientele incredibly dressed. It’s almost like an American extension of Zedel’s Bar Americain couple of doors down (Click HERE for a review of Bar Americain!)

Benares' 'Mumbai Martini'

Benares’ ‘Mumbai Martini’

8PM: 10 minute walk brings us to Benares at Berkeley Square, serving up a Mumbai Martini; vodka muddled over curry leaves, fresh root ginger, lemon juice and sugar syrup. Okay. This was something that, with a couple of changes, can be a very intriguing drink.

At first, there is this absolute slam of curry leaves followed by a powerful lemon, ginger simmering, then suddenly going back to lemon. It runs a risk of tipping between ‘alright’ and ‘unpleasant’. Halfway through the drink, the curry leaves and ginger vanish, leaving sweet lemon vodka behind. At this point, it’s all out unpleasant.

I suspect leaving out the sugar, changing the citrus (Yuzu? As a light spray, not as a juice. But if it demands juice after trial and error, minimal), and infusing the vodka lightly with curry leaves, then muddling with a hint of ginger could change this drink into something wonderful.

In other news, service was confused, the bartender had a better idea of who we were and when we wanted the bill from miles away while three servers were busy running into each other being confused. Or acting it. Whichever. It was more of a fun bobble-head boxing contest.

Midnight: Is there a theme to today? Well, besides all the awesome puns. Maybe there is a moral to the story, but not in the bars. The Hoodooist made it home obscenely early at 9.15PM when he realised that the concept of another drink was almost unthinkable. Five days in a row of LCW meant a full night’s sleep is something necessary.
Ain’t no rest for the wicked.

Alright! That’s our recap of Day Five of London Cocktail Week 2014! I do hope it may have helped you one way or the other, dear companions, on our quest through the most magical week of the year. May the LCW shackles on your wrists take you to fantastical vistas through this glorious city.

#YourDailyDoseOfHoodoo is almost at an end! Be prepared for our LCW14 finale article coming up this weekend!

London Cocktail Week ’14, Day FOUR: Angels Unawares

Welcome back to the recap of the fourth day of London Cocktail Week 2014! Wield a red or white wristband and enjoy the discounts/events that LCW has to offer!

This year the Hoodooist will be bringing you #YourDailyDoseOfHoodoo, a daily review of each day of London Cocktail Week ’14.

Today we look at October 9th: Where the Hoodooist and friends tackle Clerkenwell and Farringdon. The theme seems to be the importance of service, where fantastic service and come venues clashes with terrible service at others.

Buffalo Trace Bourbon's Pickle Jar event

Buffalo Trace Bourbon’s Pickle Jar event

6.30PM: The Well’s basement, Pickle Jar, is busy as all hell. The PR company sure did know what they were doing when they handled the Buffalo Trace event here, but hell, Buffalo Trace always does do the best LCW pop ups, so it’s bound to be busy.

You know when you know you’re at the best place? Yup, that feeling right there. We started off with a Rosemary Sazerac. Buffalo Trace, rosemary gomme, atomised absinthe that is sprayed over the drink. THIS SOLVES IT. The problem that so many bartenders have with washing a glass with absinthe when making a Sazerac, this solves it, preventing from there being too much or too little. The absinthe still comes through, mainly through smell. The Buffalo Trace with its smoothness and light flavour of the rosemary. A beautiful drink.

The Maraschino Manhattan is equally brilliant. Though it uses a notoriously sweet vermouth – Antica Formula – the Manhattan still manages to be served Perfect instead of Sweet. Success.

We ended with a trio of Picklebacks – first with pickled gherkin juice, then beetroot, then cucumber.

Cucumber was out least favourite; gherkin the most familiar; and finally beetroot being surprisingly pleasant, and in fact – wonderful. I look forward to finding a way to do this again! Time to start pickling beets. All in all – Buffalo Trace really succeeded in organising this event, with a wonderful bartended from the Cadogan Arms. A fabulous piece of work.

Pickle Jar's 'Maraschino Manhattan'

Pickle Jar’s ‘Maraschino Manhattan’

8PM: I honestly wish I stayed at the Pickle Jar. Why? Because I made the unfortunate decision of stopping by the Bistrot Bruno Loubet.

Serving up ‘The Fallen’ meant to be somehow reminiscent of Biblical fallen angels (yeah, I know.), Martell VSOP and St. Germain is primarily orange citrus, followed by a slight ginger – ending with elderflower in the background. The mediocre drink aside, this happened:

Anastrophe&Cheese: “We’ll have a second for him, as well.”
The Hoodooist (immediately): “No, I’m fine, thanks, cancel that!”
5 minutes later;
Server: “Hi, yes here is your drink. I already made it, and I can’t keep it aside since it will lose the flavour, so you have to have it. Or you have to pay for it anyway.”
The Hoodooist: “But we asked to cancel it as soon as it was mentioned.”
Server: “Well, I already made it in that time.”
Anastrophe&Cheese: “We literally cancelled it instantly.”
Server: “Well, nothing I can do.” *shrugs indignantly and leaves*

NOTE: BBL invited us back with an apology for the service, and a full review can be found HERE

8.30PM: We entered St. Bart’s Brewery for a minute, where a drink was served when all we asked for were the ingredients to their Kentish Stinger (Cider brandy, Pinot Noir, sugar). Nonetheless, the bartender apologised and didn’t mind taking it away when our faces betrayed our opinions. One could have a sherbet or a Tokaji instead of this, really, if it is your thing. Incredibly sweet and should be served short, in personal opinion. But a fantastic display of good service, in comparison to the Bistrot Bruno Loubet incident.

COLD's 'Cristal Clear Martinez'

COLD’s ‘Cristal Clear Martinez’

9PM: City of London Distillery (C.O.L.D.) is a comfy, dark, leather becouched basement venue at Fleet Street that distills its own citrusy (primarily pink grapefruit) gin, with a gin institute as well.

Serving up a ‘Cristal Clear Martinez’, Cocchi Americano, City of London Dry Gin, Luxardo Maraschino, dash of Regans Orange Bitters, maraschino cherry garnish dropped in. This is excellent, but also very sweet, even in comparison to most Martinez’. The orange bitters really does come through with the grapefruit of the CoL gin; combatting with the thick sweetness of the Cocchi Americano and Luxardo Maraschino. Further down the drink, the cherry gets a chance to release its sugars into the drink for further sweetness. Somehow still a wonderful drink regardless of its intense sugariness.

This paired with the incredibly knowledgeable and polite servers who are genuinely concerned about you and your drink is highlighted by the horrible service at BBL earlier. Servers here at COLD are wonderful. We went on to have more drinks and samples which I will cover in a full review next week or so.

Midnight: The Hoodooist is typing this up and contemplating how perhaps the hospitality of a venue might trump everything else about it. Feeling at home is what makes a bar what it is (Click to see Hospitality Rant HERE), and not living up to that ruins what you stand for. And it isn’t about being a reviewer; it’s about being a customer, and indeed a guest. Anyone of you bartenders and servers could be entertaining angels unawares.
Alright! That’s our recap of Day Four of London Cocktail Week 2014! I do hope it may have helped you one way or the other, dear companions, on our quest through the most magical week of the year. May the LCW shackles on your wrists take you to fantastical vistas through this glorious city.

Come back tomorrow for our NEXT RECAP of LCW ’14, and #YourDailyDoseOfHoodoo!

London Cocktail Week ’14, Day THREE: Risking it All

Welcome back to the recap of the third day of London Cocktail Week 2014! Wield a red or white wristband and enjoy the discounts/events that LCW has to offer!

This year the Hoodooist will be bringing you #YourDailyDoseOfHoodoo, a daily review of each day of London Cocktail Week ’14.

Today we look at October 8th: Where the Hoodooist and friends tackle Shoreditch. The appearance of a dear friend who has returned from a far off land left the Hoodooist bit distracted and he forgot to take many pictures. Soz.

5.30PM: Who can turn down a French Rib at the Hawksmoor Spitalfields bar? I’ve rated HS pretty well at their performance at the Cocktails in the City 2014 (Click HERE for review!) for their Full Fat Old Fashioned, and Afterlight, and I’ll take their Dandy any day of the week; but the ambitious Big Macquiri may be a bit too ambitious. Kept fairly mysterious in the LCW14 literature, it turns out that the drink meant to be ‘reminiscent’ of a certain burger we all know was a mix of Havana 5yr rum, Fernet, Cynar, and Dill syrup.

I guess, if you take the actual meat out of a Big Mac, you’d get something similar? Perhaps they should have worked on this with Peg + Patriot (Click HERE for review) for a beef reduction of some sort. In any case, we got a drink that brought up both extremes of sweet and bitter – initially the hint of dill, which intensified halfway through the drink. After the initial dill, the sweeter Cynar, eventually ending with the herbal Fernet hitting the soft palette with a bang. I can certainly imagine somebody really enjoying this drink, but that person isn’t me – it’s a very specific flavour.

This doesn’t alter my generally very positive opinion of Hawksmoor Spitalfields though.

Hawksmoor Spitalfield's 'Big Macquiri'.

Hawksmoor Spitalfield’s ‘Big Macquiri’.

6.30PM: We’re standing in the rain. See, Angostura’s press event for the Butterfly House is a large space, but us early birds (by which I mean, its 4 minutes after the arrival time) are standing outside in the rain. My opinion of this event is already dwindling.

Once in, I have to admit, the actual exhibit is wonderful – Luke Brown the Butterfly Bloke did an amazing job; and it was an honour to have the Master Distiller in the house. Unfortunately, I can’t say the same for the drinks. Bartenders seemed a bit scattered – but it was humid as all hell, to be fair. Beginning with 2 drinks, The Owl Butterfly: Angostura rum, Monin Passionfruit syrup, sugarcane sugar syrup; and the Heliconius Dream: Angostura rum, Antica Formula red vermouth, Campari, whole egg, nutmeg dusted.

Angostura's 'Heliconius Dream'.

Angostura’s ‘Heliconius Dream’.

The Owl Butterfly was what it was, passionfruit and rum. The Heliconius Dream was a much more wintery drink, but I honestly couldn’t find myself enjoying it – initial honey sweetness from the rum clashes with the fruity sweetness of the Antica, blows straight into this bitter Campari. A few sips in I had to find a place to put this aside.

And hey, one can’t go wrong with a Daiquiri, right? Well, apparently you can.

Okay, that might be a moth.

Okay, that might be a moth.

7.30PM: Casita! We heart Casita, we all know this (Click HERE for review). Will Foster was a gem as usual, and as one of my favourite bars in town, and always a must visit in Shoreditch for me – we had a list of drinks to go through for the Hidden Ibiza – Gin Mare pop up. Instead, I went for a twist on the  Casita signature El Fenix – Ocho Tequila (yum), lime, ting, grapefruit, agave, chilli. I have had the El Fenix before at Casita’s 8th Birthday (Click HERE for Casita’s 8th Birthday event article) and enjoyed it immensely – but it was really missing something tonight. To be fair, bartenders were guest bartenders tonight, so I can forgive it being a rookie situation – the chilli and agave flavours initially were lovely, but the following taste (of newspaper?) was a bit less enjoyable. Nonetheless, Casita’s legendary atmosphere and excellent service made for a fun visit.

8.30PM: NOLA. I swear, how do I keep finding myself here? Okay, I love NOLA as seen in my previous review (Click HERE), but what was with service today? NOLA’s LCW14 offering is a daily war between two bartenders in a specific spirit, and tonight (keeping in with today’s theme), was El Dorado 5yr rum. NOLA’s local bartender vs… Well, according to our server, the legendary Tiki master Jeff Beachbum Berry. Except it was not Jeff Berry, it was the lovely Chris Dennis of Trailer Happiness. The server insisted I was incorrect. Now, I love Chris Dennis’ work enough to recognise the man when I see him. And greet him. So this was odd.

Anyway, the said drink was a mix of El Dorado 5yr rum, tepache spiced pineapple spirit, coffee liqueur and you must be wondering why I’m stumped on the ingredients and brands. That’s because our second server, this young fellow I haven’t seen before, seemed insistent on this conversation:
“Hi, could I have a look at the menu again please?”
“Is it about the LCW drink?”
“Yeah, I need to have a look at the ingredients again.”
“Oh, it’s rum, tepache and coffee liqueur.”
“Okay, can I see the menu?”
“Oh no, that’s it in the drink.”

So yeah. I apologise I can’t give a decent review of this drink, but service was a disaster from entrance to exit, and honestly, NOLA as a fantastic bar, needs to vet its employees a bit more. In any case, Chris Dennis won this cocktail battle hands down, with a stronger focus on the coffee liqueur working well with the caramel and woody spice of the El Dorado 5yr, with the tepache playing a more background role. A very good drink, but best served short.

Honestly, I think about the spectacular service at Cecil’s the night before, and this just downright offends me. (Click HERE for a look at Cecil’s the night before!)

184 Hackney Road

184 Hackney Road

9.30PM: 184 Hackney Road – once called QuiQuiRiQui, the legendary Mezcaleria speakeasy is the first place to do ‘speakeasy’ right. Literally just a tiny room under a kebab shop, with a massive collection of mezcal, 184 presented us with a Mezcal Margarita, QuiQuiRiQui smoky mezcal, hibiscus and cardamom syrup, lime juice and agave nectar. Probably the best drink of the night, simplicity won out in the end. The mezcal is the dominating flavour, beginning with the momentary agave sweetness to the deep smokiness, but quickly resting on the hibiscus, with a slight hint of cardamom in the distance. Short, simple, exquisite.

Midnight: the Hoodooist is typing this article and ponders why bars he normally loves have faltered today, and realises: a lot of it is in taking major risks. Hawksmoor took a huge risk with an ambitious drink, but are still a strong bar. Casita risked with guest bartenders (though I think the regulars joined in later), and though are a fabulous bar, did not get the best ‘tenders at that hour. NOLA risked it all with frankly, deplorable service – though the bartenders were strong.

Alright! That’s our recap of Day Three of London Cocktail Week 2014! I do hope it may have helped you one way or the other, dear companions, on our quest through the most magical week of the year. May the LCW shackles on your wrists take you to fantastical vistas through this glorious city.

Come back tomorrow for our NEXT RECAP of LCW ’14, and #YourDailyDoseOfHoodoo!

London Cocktail Week ’14, Day TWO: Cellars and the City

Welcome back to the recap of the second day of London Cocktail Week 2014! Wield a red or white wristband and enjoy the discounts/events that LCW has to offer!

This year the Hoodooist will be bringing you #YourDailyDoseOfHoodoo, a daily review of each day of London Cocktail Week ’14.

Today we look at October 7th: Where the Hoodooist and friends tackled the City and London Bridge – which seems populated by basement bars and aging cellars. So on with the show!

 

2PM: Marching up from lunch at Borough Market, we find ourselves at Silk & Grain; we’ve been hoping to pop by for a while.

Silk & Grain adopted the concept of aging cocktails and made it their bar signature. Cocktails, or spirits, are whipped up in batches of 3 litres and aged for a week or two in their cellar – which our server was kind enough to give us a tour of – in different containers depending on the desired effect.

The Silk & Grain Cellar, with 'Elle' Presidente Casks

The Silk & Grain Cellar, with ‘Elle’ Presidente Casks

The LCW drink on offer was the ‘Elle’ Presidente: Bacardi Superior, dry vermouth, Cointreau, pomegranate syrup aged in a barrel. An intense fragrance of Cointreau; the drink’s first sip is notably strong and almost difficult, but the second is far mellower, with a rich mouthfeel (especially in comparison to your usual El Presidente, courtesy of the aging). After that surprising development, we assumed perhaps it needed a while to breathe after being released from its cask. Other than that, one can expect the pomegranate of the usual El Presidente, and light notes of the Bacardi Superior’s blue cheese come through.

A sample of their barrel aged Manhattan provides a much smoother, and indeed much sweeter Manhattan, where the Rye whisky takes a back seat to the intense fruitiness Martini Rosso vermouth. Finally, a sample of the smoked then bottled vodka brings the almost caramel coffee sweetness of the heavily charred cask with it before being mixed into a Moscow Mule.

The ‘Elle’ Presidente might not be entirely my style, but Silk & Grain is still worth a stop to develop one’s understanding of the aging process of spirits and cocktails.

 

Silk & Grain's 'Elle' Presidente

Silk & Grain’s ‘Elle’ Presidente

3PM: Merchant House London hosts an LCW pop up for the recently launched Burleigh’s Gin, notable for its intensely woodland flavours and earthy crispness. The multiple drinks on offer at the pop up are meant to either bring out the gin’s forest flavours, or emphasis it in more complex cocktails.

One such drink was the Woodland Martinez, Burleigh’s mixed in with red vermouth, homemade mushroom bitters and absinthe. Slightly bizarre sounding at first, intuition led me in the right direction with this one – absolutely adored it. The mushroom and aniseed really come through on the nose and rich texture; the floral aspect of the gin is emphasised here, with the wet undergrowth coming right after, resting lightly on the mushroom – which was distinct, yet subtle. Finally, the absinthe adds a bit of kick at the end, but a light one. There’s something mysterious and almost disquieting in this cocktail, and what a beautiful drink it is. I do hope it makes it to the Merchant House’s permanent menu. HINT HINT, NATE.

Merchant House's 'The Woodland Martinez'

Merchant House’s ‘The Woodland Martinez’

6PM: Yes, there was a second lunch involved. 6PM found us at The Bar at Roast, London Bridge, where servers seemed to have forgotten what they were serving for LCW. Atmosphere was that special kind of bland, followed by an equally bland dry Manhattan called something silly like “The Mad Men Manhattan”. Wild Turkey Bourbon (in a Manhattan?), dry vermouth, barolo chinato, Abbots bitters. In terms of Manhattans, one has certainly had better, fairly disappointing. Perhaps here we have an example of personal biases more so than the other drinks.

 

The Hide Bar's 'Under The Influence'

The Hide Bar’s ‘Under The Influence’

7PM: We’ve found ourselves at Tanner & Co, but when asked what the LCW drink is, the server describes it as “Rum and apple juice” (apparently that makes a punch these days). So we cross the street to The Hide Bar. The Hide presents both a hot and cold version of ‘Under The Influence’: Diplomatico Reserva Exclusiva rum, Campari, topped up with blended mulled wine with vermouth base – the complexity of which is understated in the drinks description. Whereas the cold version came off medicinal and bitter, the hot was a spectacularly complex and pleasant drink – the initial rum sweetness giving in to the spiced red wine with a subtle Campari aftertaste. Served very short, rightfully so, it can be very intense. Worth a stop, during this cold week.

 

Cecil's Paris in London Grand Marnier pop up

Cecil’s Paris in London Grand Marnier pop up

8PM: Here we are at Cecil’s Paris in London Grand Marnier pop up. We’ve been plotting to go to Cecil’s for a while now, just for an excuse to wear white tie more often. And oh my, is this a pop up you HAVE to visit before the end of the week, and was certainly the highlight of the evening.

Spectacular service first of all, by the same company who provided the excellent service at the House of Peroni launch last week (Click HERE for review). But the list of cocktails provided for the pop up all stood out wonderfully. To the point where we were happy paying full price to try to them instead of the LCW drink on offer.

L-R: Grand Sidecar; Cold Claret Punch

L-R: Grand Sidecar; Cold Claret Punch

The effervescent and fun environment of Cecil’s charged by the live jazz band had a distinctly Parisian feel to it as the Hoodooist held onto his Cold Claret Punch; Grand Marnier Cordon Rouge, Cherry Marnier, Bordeaux red wine, botanicals, spices and lemon juice. The initial powerful Bordeaux calms down out through the drink, as the other flavours and scents grow. Nonetheless, you can’t mistake the intensity of the wine, followed by the cherry and Grand Marnier. In the past I have not been a major fan of wine cocktails, forget cold ones – but this changed my mind entirely – what a spectacular long drink to relax with (EVIDENCE THE HOODOOIST CAN DRINK LONG DRINKS!).

Brand Ambassador Julien Lafond with Grand Marnier Quintessence

Brand Ambassador Julien Lafond with Grand Marnier Quintessence

Being introduced to the wonderfully hospitable Brand Ambassador of Grand Marnier, Julien Lafond, we ourselves were introduced to a bottle of the Grand Marnier Centenaire – released in 1927 to mark the 100th year of the great House of Grand Marnier. And no surprise it is still being sold, the Centenaire is a spectacle. Petite and Grande Champagne cognacs meet orange eaux de vie to build an award winning spirit with a spicy candied orange bouquet and a wonderfully layered falvour, opening on the intense orange, moving to the sharper cognac, and finally resting on a simmering aftertaste of orange zest. (I made a typo of ‘zest’ as ‘sex’, so we can guess how much I adored this liquor).

And just when we thought Mr. Lafond couldn’t be more of a star, a bottle of Grand Marnier Quintessence finds its way to the table. As he walks us through the complexities of its production and history, a shiver runs through the Hoodooist as he pulls the cork. Assaulted by almond and vanilla scents, as well as the expected orange, snifters are sniffed and drinks drunk to reveal an elegant opening of an older cognac’s sweet notes of caramel, vanilla and almond, giving way to first a light citrusy body, and to a long length of orange zest. An amber masterpiece of liquid engineering.

 

L-R: Grand Marnier Centenaire; Quintessence

L-R: Grand Marnier Centenaire; Quintessence

Our evening ends with a conversation with our generous hosts, and at Midnight: The Hoodooist prepares his third day’s LCW14 assault. Await me, Shoreditch, I am coming for you.

Alright! That’s our recap of Day Two of London Cocktail Week 2014! I do hope it may have helped you one way or the other, dear companions, on our quest through the most magical week of the year. May the LCW shackles on your wrists take you to fantastical vistas through this glorious city.

Come back tomorrow for our NEXT RECAP of LCW ’14, and #YourDailyDoseOfHoodoo!

London Cocktail Week ’14, Day ONE: Nikka, Courvoisier, & the Savoy, Oh My!

Welcome one and all to the recap of the first day of London Cocktail Week 2014! Wield a red or white wristband and enjoy the discounts/events that LCW has to offer!

This year the Hoodooist will be bringing you #YourDailyDoseOfHoodoo, a daily review of each day of London Cocktail Week ’14.

Today we look at October 6th: Where the Hoodooist and friends tackled the Seven Dials and a couple of tasting events, wielding the mythical Hoodooist Manual, written in an indecipherable text known as ‘my terrible handwriting’. If found, return to the nearest bar, I’ll find it eventually.

a.k.a., Ole' Scribbly.

a.k.a., Ole’ Scribbly.

1PM: Hello, Flesh and Buns. Notorious for its questionable (read: sexist) choice in bathroom décor in some vain attempt to shock, the drink put forward was equally tasteless. The Hokuto Sour brings Japanese whisky, Yuzu sake, chocolate bitters, egg white and lemon to make something that is certainly more of a palette cleanser. All notes scream yuzu and lemon, although halfway through there is an echo of the chocolate bitters. I may have gotten a bit of the whisky on the sides of the tongue, but it was barely there. I’m just glad I only paid 4 pounds for it.

Nonetheless, the kinako donuts were pretty fantastic.

Flesh and Buns' 'Hokuto Sour'

Flesh and Buns’ ‘Hokuto Sour’

2PM: The Nikka ‘51.4’ Bar. The Japanese whisky pop-up serves several pre-mixed cocktails featuring the ‘Nikka From the Barrel Whisky’. Either you order a flight of 4 mini-cocktails for 4 pounds, or buy a bottle of a premixed cocktail for roughly 55 quid. The latter option might seem odd until you realise that some of the drinks being imported from Paris and Italy (or you know, improvise from the ingredients).

In any case, the flight was a marvellous idea; let’s have a quick run through:

The Nikka '51.4' Bar's Cocktail Flight

The Nikka ‘51.4’ Bar’s Cocktail Flight

Let’s begin with the Nippone: from Paris’ Le Mary Celeste, and winner of the Nikka Perfect Serve 2010. Nikka meets Amontillado sherry and two dashes of Spanish bitters for a bit of kick. Through the initial hit of Nikka, the nose opens up to the fruity Amontillado. The smoothest of the drinks, and certainly one I can see myself relaxing with, can best be described as a seductive island of Nikka in the midst of an Amontillado sea. A success.

The Bamboo Crane: from Paris’ Le Mavel, and winner of the NPS 2011, brings Nikka with Pedro Ximenez sherry and Bonal Quina. Okay, on the nose, the smell I can only describe as downright erotic. I want this as a parfum, leather, heat, perfection. Unfortunately, I can’t say the same for flavour. Texture is gritty, the initial sherry sweetness gives way to vanilla, finally to the quina – which if used wisely (as at NOLA, click HERE for review), can be an effective ingredient – characterised here as a sudden burst of bitterness.

The Professor Cocktail #30: from Rome’s Jerry Thomas Speakeasy, bring together Nikka with Vermouth del Professore and Chinotto citrus liqueur. Mellow, the vermouth blends well with the Nikka for a subtle, silky drink with an intense fruitiness. The Chinotto is present with a slight bitterness at the end.

Finally, the Robbie Burns-San: courtesy of London’s own Bam-Bou! Nikka, Italian sweet vermouth and Benedictine; a sharp assault of Nikka mellows out, only to be followed by a sudden, unexpected wasabi-esque burst of spice in the sinuses, leaving a warm aftertaste of plum and stone fruit. Surprising, teasing, and one that most accurately reflects the flavour of neat Nikka. I quite liked this, but the Nippone above still wins it for me.

Courvoisier Global Ambassador, Rebecca Asseline

Courvoisier Global Ambassador, Rebecca Asseline

3PM: Grab a coffee and charge to the Hyatt Regency’s Churchill Bar for Courvoisier’s Cognac tasting and pairing masterclass.

Hosted by the lovely Rebecca Asseline (above), global ambassador for Courvoisier, the session provided information on the making, and indeed complex architecture, of the most honourable Chateau Courvoisier. A perfect opportunity for the Hoodooist to evolve past shots of Cypriot pomace brandy to a more sophisticated understanding of cognac.

Exploring first the VSOP Courvoisier, a blend of grapes from the Grande and Petit Champagne regions, brings out the heady combination of vanilla, dried fruits, and summer flowers.

Although I certainly took more to the XO, blend of Borderies, Grande and Petit Champagne grapes, with their intense, sweeter bouquet of crème brûlée, candied orange, and iris flowers – especially when paired with crème brûlée as dessert – bringing out the sweetness and intensifying the length of the brandy.

Courvoisier & Creme Brulee Pairing

Courvoisier & Creme Brulee Pairing

The Churchill Bar also presented us with what was similar to a sweet herbal Cognac Julep – Courvoisier VSOP, sugar syrup, rosemary, thyme, Angostura bitters and lime. After enjoying the delights of Courvoisier, it felt a bit odd to be given a cocktail that really drained the uniqueness from it, to be replaced with a bit too much sugar syrup. Toning down the sugar here would provide a spectacular Spring drink.

Courvoisier VSOP; XO; and cocktail

Courvoisier VSOP; XO; and cocktail

Finally, 5PM finds the Hoodooist at the Savoy Hotel’s Martini Museum and American Bar. Situated at the entrance of the American Bar, earning its name for being one of the fewest bars back at the turn of the 20th Century for serving ‘mixed’, or ‘American’ drinks, the Savoy presents the immortal Martini, with a Savoy twist.

The 5 o Clock Martini is a bergamot fix on a wet gin Martini, with all ingredients constructed primarily for the London Cocktail Week, but readers should know that unlike the rest of LCW, the 5 o Clock Martini is full price at 10 GBP – it is just limited edition for this week.

The Savoy Gin, distilled only this weekend by Portobello Road Gin, meets Cocchi produced dry vermouth with added bergamot; and Bitter Truth goes for a bergamot Savoy bitters. Yeah, the Savoy pulled out all the stops. You will be asked if you want a sprig of bergamot in your drink, I recommend keeping it aside until halfway through the drink, and then drop it in.

The initial bergamot assault is unmistakable and almost cloying, both on the nose and palette. But after removing the sprig of bergamot, seems to mellow out a bit, having you realise the gin is actually quite subtle (for a gin, that is), floral, and not too citrus. An interesting Martini worth a try if you’re in the mood, very intense, even when served wet.

The Savoy's '5 o Clock Martini'

The Savoy’s ‘5 o Clock Martini’

6.30PM: The Hoodooist had an academic event to find himself at. This was not easy to get to, as one can imagine. In any case, he bloody well made it, and managed to not make a fool of himself.
Alright! That’s our recap of Day One of London Cocktail Week 2014! I do hope it may have helped you one way or the other, dear companions, on our quest through the most magical week of the year. May the LCW shackles on your wrists take you to fantastical vistas through this glorious city.

Come back tomorrow for our NEXT RECAP of LCW ’14, and #YourDailyDoseOfHoodoo!