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!

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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!

 

The House of Peroni Press Launch

Beer giant Peroni relaunches it’s massively popular pop-up – House of Peroni – in London, a ‘celebration of Italian culture’.

A multi-storey affair, it presents Italian art installations reflecting Rome, with food provided by Bottega Wapping (Yum), and cocktails innovated with Peroni beer.

Now I ain’t no art critic, so let’s go over the drinks as we wander through the various installations munching on canapes.

"The Secret Garden" art installation

“The Secret Garden” art installation

Unfortunately, the launch only served 3 of the 6 cocktails proposed – which to be honest, was a massive disappointment. If this was a matter of using certain ingredients sparingly, a token-for-cocktail affair could have been organised. A real shame since couple of the drinks not being served at the launch seemed to be far more promising that what was served in the end.

Let’s begin with the best of the lot:

The Nerone, inspired by the myth of Nero standing by as Rome burned, evoked the fire and smoke of a city-wide conflagration. Peroni Nastro Azzurro shaken with chilli, passionfruit and smokey Lapsang souchong tea. The smokey tea really mellows the normally overpowering passionfruit, simmering with spiciness. Unfortunately, the flavours separate if the drinker takes time, leaving the last half of the drink to taste almost entirely of Peroni instead of a steady mix, or slight layering of the drink. Nonetheless, a successful cocktail.

The following two were a bit less enticing.

Fellini’s La Dolce Vita inspired the La Dolce Vista (geddit.) – meant to be sipped slowly, a twist on the Aperol Spritz. Peroni NA, orange, grapefruit and Prosecco; demands a VERY long sipping time. And though mediocre, would be probably more enjoyable as a shorter drink. In any case, mixed well, and something to relax in the outdoor area with.

Finally, the Honey Peroni brings together Peroni NA, vanilla infused rum and honey for a drink described as well-balanced – but is anything but. Painfully sweet on vanilla and honey, and left unfinished.

The "Roma Phantasma" art installation

The “Roma Phantasma” art installation

Unfortunately, I cannot comment on the last three drinks that were not served on the night, so cannot review them. Which should have been considered since a press launch would demand, well, people giving a fair review of what a venue has to offer. Similar with the sparse canapes. In any case, service was excellent, employees were absolutely wonderful.

In any case, the House of Peroni provides an interesting, if not university-house-party-esque atmosphere for a night out, even if the coffee leaves a lot to be desired. For an evening of socialising, worth one drink.

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

The House of Peroni

64 Lincoln’s Inn Fields,
London, WC2A 3JX.

http://thehouseofperoni.com/