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!

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3 comments on “London Cocktail Week ’14, Day TWO: Cellars and the City

  1. […] 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!) […]

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  2. […] 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 […]

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  3. […] 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!). […]

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