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!



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

  1. […] 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. […]


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