Montelobos Mezcal Tasting @ The Curtain

Candle wax drips in cascades as their lights flicker across the leather chesterfields. Dr. Ivan Saldana strides to the centre of The Curtain‘s basement member’s club, behind him an enormous lupine emblem, on either side matte black cocktail shakers and new expressions of the immensely popular Montelobos Mezcal.

One of the first big names in mezcal in the UK, Montelobos capitalised on the agave boom very early, becoming a recognisable presence on the back bar and in a Mezcal Old Fashioned.

Dr. Saldana’s academic background in botany has been invaluable to the mezcal’s inception, and will continue to be as agave varieties face deforestation in Mexico.

Montelobos combats this by harvesting rarer agave varietals like tobala and cupreata – notoriously difficult to cultivate, and thus varietals that face the most danger in the face of the ‘premium’ agave spirit market.

In an industry where ‘sustainability’ has becomes a buzzword to be thrown around at various trade shows, we see it in action at the Montelobos estate.

We raise the first classic Montelobos mezcal – the Espadin.

Clear crystal, the Espadin is a classic. The nose reveals sugary sweetness at the bottom of an espresso cup, before green peppers and asparagus burst from under the coffee grounds and sugar crystals. Petrichor and light sprays of citrus.

The palate isn’t far off – cooked and fresh agave, light funky fruit and some roasted nuts, a clean herbacity and mangos with a smoky cocoa. Wonderfully complex without sacrificing balance – perfect for cocktails.

The Ensamble is the gorgeous expression that separates the agave lovers from the rest. This beautiful spirit mixes Papalote, Espadin and Tobala agaves for a surprising blend.

A deceptive nose of roasted agave and nectar dripping over hot rocks and citrus masks a palate of capers and cheese, before a spicy hit of nutmeg and minerality, a chalkiness, before a peppery vinegar and grape skin. A wonderful combo recommended for brandy and eau de vie lovers.

Those who know the Hoodooist know he loves a Tobala. Once again, a deceptive nose – bright with citrus and pepper, one has to look at the tail end of spices to know where we’re going. The palate is full – sweet and oily. Smoky, almost peaty but not quite, the mezcal gives way too bright green herbs, like basil. But soon, caramel and roasted fruits like figs and nuts, making it almost reminiscent of sherried scotches (for those unacquainted with mezcals). This smoothness has the earthy funk of truffle, muscovado sugar and liquorice to finish on. A gorgeous, sweet/smoky combo.

Finally, a mezcal to wake the dead: The Pechuga. This Espadin based Pechuga carries the same characteristic of any other pechugas: distilled with spices and poultry – except the usual chicken breast is swapped out for kosher turkey breast, hanging over the distilling spirit.

With the Day of the Dead coming soon, the Hoodooist had to grab himself some, in keeping with Oaxaca tradition to serve pechuga for libations.

Orange peel and nutmeg greets the nose, the mouthfilling palate is awash with tropical fruit, papaya, honeydew melon, as well as floral hibiscus and roasted almonds, before the autumnal flavours of squash and maple. What a superb spirit.

Ivan has done an incredible job overseeing a collection of varied and environmentally responsible joven mezcals with Montelobos. The varied collection of flavours across the 4 mezcals provides a wide range of experience across a carefully selected ensamble of spirits.

When you’re ready to climb onto the next rung of your mezcal studies, consider the guilt-free smoky delights of Casa Montelobos.

Thanks to,

Montelobos Mezcal

http://montelobos.com/

and,

The Curtain Shoreditch

https://thecurtain.com

Manguin en Provence Distillery Tasting

“Between the palace of the popes of Avignon and the Phillippe le Bel de Villeneuve Lez Avignon Tower which in the 14th century were joined by the famous bridge of Avignon with its 21 arches, is the island of Barthelasse, the biggest river island in Europe, a land of sand and lemons, swept by the Mistral, perfect for the cultivation of exceptional fruits, bathing in the sunshine of Provence.”

In the plush environs of Fitz’s Bar, London, Beatrice and Emmanuel of the Manguin Distillery regale us with stories from Provence while holding close the guarded secrets of Manguin. The French distillery is most popular for its Poire Williams Eau de Vie, with a Williams Pear trapped inside the bottle for sale, but we had the wonderful opportunity to taste more of what they had to offer.

Manguin Oli’Gin

Many gin purists these days have begun to rebel against the wealth of gins not led by juniper on the palate, and I’d agree if it were not for this beauty.

The Oli’Gin changed my mind – a superb gin if you like your olives.

Made in an alembic pot still names Cesar, the botanicals of obviously juniper, then familiar orris, coriander, orange and lemon peels, angelica, and flavoured with the maceration of three Provencal olives births a unique gin for the clean dirty olive Martini.

Love olive but not brine? Solved.

This nose is not kidding around. Olive tapenade pours out of the bottle when uncorked, and lingers. Mandarin follows soon after, and the aroma of truffle makes a powerful entrance, masking the shy bouquet of jasmine and white flowers. The journey ends with a train of olive and hints of coriander.

Max of Matango and the Water House Project whispers “I need to use this in a Harissa bun” and now I’m hungry.

The palate isn’t kidding around. The sweet black olive and juniper enter together – this is not a ‘flavoured’ gin as one might be led to believe at first. And here is the surprise of spices! A little bit of bite, but smooth enough to be in the driest of Martinis.

Manguin Oli’Still:

The secret to the Oli’Gin! So tantalisingly close, but the three olives that make this distillate are kept secret. The maceration is prepared in a Charentais alembic, this heart of the still is glorious to replace the brine for a Dirty Martini, and I would love to use it in a Bloody Mary.

The sweet black olives are back, let it sit and return and you will find the strangest of scents: freshly baked donuts!

Eau de Vie Abricot Quintessence:

How gorgeous is this? I have a… complex… personal relationship with Eau de Vie but I do love this brandy.

A perfumed bite, but the first sip’s powerful tarte tatin and apricot soon gives way to Provence’s chalky terroir, the aroma of sea spray – the lavender and heather that dominates the countryside sways into view, and soon ends on the sweetest of almond cakes, sugar syrup dripping from the sponge.

This EdV is Provence in a bottle – from its fruit to its flowers to its soil and sea. Gorgeous.

Finally, the last two liqueurs!

Moving into sweet territory, these fruit and floral liqueurs are a wonderful end to the afternoon.

Béatrice and Emmanuel Hanquiez of Manguin en Provence

Manguin Clementine liqueur:

Sweet, syrupy, beautiful. The bright spray of clementine explodes into almonds, followed by a parade of lemon sherbet. This is what you want from a liqueur: simplicity with depth.

Last but not least, the Manguin Citron Bergamote liqueur:

What I love about this, it leans into the sweetness of the liqueur rather than shying away to preserve the floral perfuminess of bergamot. By doing so it keeps with a liqueur’s foremost purpose without sacrificing the bergamot’s flavour.

Bergamot swirls into scene, soon cardamom crushes in a mortar. The pith of blood orange sinks into an earthy minerality to end on a soft bed of violets.

The opportunity to taste the Provencal flavours of Manguin’s products was an honour, and have definitely placed them firmly in my radar, as well they should yours. With a wonderful Eau de Vie, especially for EdV novices, spectacular floral and fruit liqueurs to drink neat or use in cocktails, and an olive gin and distillate for both cocktails and cooking, Manguin has stunned by bringing Provence to London.

Thanks to,

Manguin en Provence distillery

https://www.manguin.com/en/

and,

Fitz’s Bar @

Russell Square, Bloomsbury,
London WC1B 5BE

Fitzs

Cocktails in the City 2019, London

Once again, Cocktails in the City is coming into serve thirsty Londoners some of the best cocktails London has to offer!

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Yes, CitC 2019 Summer Edition  is a bringing 25 of London’s most exciting bars i beneath the green canopies of London’s Bedford Square Gardens for a sunny two-day celebration of the city’s unique and diverse drinking scene.  Festival-goers will get a chance to enjoy bars from around the city coming together in one gorgeous location on July 12th – 13th.

Bars and a representing brand set up stalls where bartenders presented the brand in a cocktail of their devising to the public for judging, with scores gathered at the end of the weekend.

Expect cocktails from renowned London bars like the new Heads + Tails, the B&H Buildings, Nightjar, and more! And be ready for the appearance of international cocktails bars flying in for the experience!

This year guests can sip their way through new trend-surfing drinks as they re-discover their love for the picnic with all new cocktails, tasting rooms, games and food trucks.

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Cocktails in the City showcases the world’s most inventive  and original cocktail bars, bringing together the cream of London’s illustrious cocktail culture, all within sipping distance of each other.
Cocktails in the City is a bar-hopper’s paradise, creating a village of pop-up bars for guests to explore, each with their own unique aesthetic, hosting tastings, workshops, games and of course, a plethora of talented mixologists creating out-of-this world cocktails.”

Learn from the famed industry mavericks driving the city’s cocktail trends. Marvel at their cocktail wizardry and get a sneak peak of the innovative techniques used to create award winning drinks!

CITC 2019 is prepared to dazzle this year, with a whole host of new experiences that leaves the Hoodooist stunned and excited!

Sit back, relax and enjoy luxurious surroundings and sumptuous champagne drinks from London’s most exclusive cocktail institutions.

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We got a super special chance to preview a few of the drinks we have lined up for the weekend at the fabulous new B&H Garden Rooms!

Be ready to see Bourne and Hollingsworth themselves at CITC with the pink for summer Ephemera! A definite crowd pleaser, this Picpoul de Pinet based spritzer gives us the light minerality of the wine with the sweeter elderflower of the St. Germain. The light lift of the Huana and bittery finish of the Martini Bitter provide us with a collection of ephemeral flavours for a balanced, light summer drink.

Up next, mammoth Chinatown speakeasy Opium concocts a cocktail that’s a feast for the eyes, the Opium Punch mixes Remy Martin 1738 cognac with oleo saccharum, oolong tea, ume shu and a mystery cordial of everything from lemon grass and gender to honey and malic acid.

From the first burst of floral cognac to the smoky oolong, silky ume shu, firecracker ginger and ending on a length of honey. this gorgeous number is a deceptively strong drink for the summer.

And don’t forget Genuine Liquorette!

This new London venue up ends the occult of bartending and wants to ‘break down the barrier between bartender and customer’ by having you jump right in!

The Cha-Chunker gets you stuck right in, breaking in tinnies to toss in your Beefeater Gin miniatures and ingredients for your own Clover Clubs, Collins and various classic cocktails!

THE CHA-CHUNKER

Some favourites from years past include:

The Looking Glass Cocktail Club, Shoreditch – harking back to Maker’s Mark’s history as breadmakers, this cocktail is inspired by Italy’s sweet panettone bread loaf and it’s potent almond flavour.

The Maker’s Baker cocktail mixes Maker’s Mark whiskey, cider reduction with winter spice, Americano vermouth, ‘Liquid Panettone’, and Sinner Bitters. A sweet wintery Manhattan with heavy mix of cinnamon, nutmeg and spices, with lingering almond certainly took centre stage with it’s innovative homemade creations of ‘liquid panettone’ and spiced cider reduction.

Other cocktails presented by LGCC included the Honey Loaf, and Fig Muffin – each an excellent rendition on the baker/distiller theme.

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Fifteen, Old Street, came in with another winner! Inspired by Wimbledon’s classic, the Strawberries and Cream.

Inspired by Behn’s Milk Punch, this summery cocktail gets a 300 year update and is a massive mix of Langley’s gin, strawberries, whole milk, Dolin dry vermouth, coconut water, green tea, lemon juice and peels, sugar, pink peppercorns, tarragon and coriander seeds.

And what a fabulous mix it is!

A wonderful well balanced, silky cocktail, sweet without being overbearing and mellowed by the fruit and spices. Absolutely fantastic.

fifteen

Another great cocktails from CITC’s past is the the Reverend JW Simpson with their Larder Batch: Four Roses Small Batch Bourbon, Pinot Noir and pink peppercorn reduction, cardamom bitters and angostura bitters; with a steak accompaniment. In terms of presentation, it stuck with the theme of the bar and the Four Roses bourbon, and the service was conversational, fun, and effervescent like the event itself. The accompaniment suited both the intense aspects of the drink, the bourbon, and Pinot Noir/pink peppercorn reduction – here the Reverend presents us with a steak dinner in a cocktail format and a nibble; the natural spiciness of the Four Roses Small Batch, and that of the peppercorn and cardamom suits the steak perfectly. The Reverend excelled on all fronts and more.

larder-batch1

So if you love your cocktails, get yourself a ticket asap, and see you at Cocktails in the City 2019!

Bedford Square Gardens, London, WC1B

Friday 12th from 5pm – 10pm
Saturday 13th (two sessions) 12pm – 5pm, 5.30pm – 10pm

Tickets are priced at £20 and include a cocktail, multiple complimentary experiences and cocktail booklet.

www.cocktailsinthecity.com

The Fat Bear, St Pauls

Type of BarBar/Restaurant, American
Damage£££
Ideal forFoodSmall GroupsLarge GroupsAfter Work

An undisturbed backstreet just off the road from St Paul’s grand cathedral, away from the bustle of the tourist crowd, there hides a gem, just above the Rising Sun.

Blues on the speakers, The Fat Bear’s low light and decor is a portal to Louisiana, easy going and demands you carry a fan with you for the drama. The venue creates a delightful balance of light heartedness and a casual fanciness, like dining at a pressed white tablecloth venue without feeling the need to roll your eyes every 5 minutes. As per the name and theme, I felt it was only fair to rock up in an enormous fur coat with fan. Look, I like themes, alright?

The food menu is a Southern delight but resist the urge to order everything, this veritable orgy of food will overwhelm you. When the two of us clearly were out of our league we did have to enlist the help of a bartender and a friend in the area to tackle our order – these portions are deceptively enormous!

One of our favourite bartenders and a wizard with rum, Gergὄ serves up a Solera Club, a lower ABV beauty. Mixing Amontillado sherry, Cynar, peche, and absinthe; nutty sherry makes a sweeping entrance before allowing the stone fruit to blossom, dragging you back down into the bittersweet Cynar, ending on the aniseed effervescence of the absinthe. A dozen times, yes.

But if you want that sour pick me up, the Pendennis is here for you: gin, apricot, lemon and Peychaud’s bitters. Astringent and in heels, the cocktail opens with spicy Bimber gin as a backdrop to the apricot that takes the stage, ending on a length of aniseed and Creole spice.

Now listen to me very carefully, reader. You want the corndogs. Order the corndogs. I don’t know what it is that makes these corndogs so addictive, but a pair of these (especially when paired with the sriracha mayo) will make your night. The train of starters kept coming in: the southern fried boneless chicken tenders were a crispy perfection, competing for the most attention for chicken with the kickin’ buffalo wings with their blue cheese dip – fighting hard for some of the best I’ve had in the city. Need more chilli? Ask about the Fat Bear’s extensive hot sauce list – why do Creole remoulade when you can do ghost peppers?

In typical Gergὄ fashion, we ain’t leaving with getting our fill of Tiki cocktails! The Tiki Sour combines Jamaica Cove Pineapple Rum, Somerset cider brandy, Orgeat, Falernum, lime, cinnamon bitters, egg white. Pineapple and cinnamon on the nose, the apple eau de vie tags on the arm of the pineapple rum, spice in their wake. The Falernum and lime helps temper the sweetness of the orgeat and cinnamon for a whole tour of flavour. In many ways, a classic Sour – which we down with our wonderfully savoury pimento cheese and toasted ciabatta, and fries topped with cheese, spring onion and bacon while waiting for our mains – yeah it’s at this point we should have assumed we were being ambitious.

Mid meal, say hello to the Welcome to Oaxaca: Gem & Bolt Mezcal, Ocho Tequila, Benedictine, Yellow Chartreuse, Miracle Mile Lime and Bergamot bitters. As part of what seems to be our global tour of cocktails, we pull up in my favourite spirit-homeland. Normally made with Sekforde Tequila Mixer, the mixer is switched out for bitters because by now we know my style.

Gem & Bolt Mezcal kicks down the door to the tune of Boys by Lizzo before immediately swirling into peppery, herbaceous Ocho tequila. Herbal and sweet eucalyptus of Yellow Chartreuse and spicy-bitter Benedictine step in before just as quickly returning to a finish of lightly smoky and floral Gem & Bolt.

And here’s the kicker: the best gumbo and jambalaya this side of the Atlantic.
Chicken, custom made Andouille sausage and prawns stew make a gumbo that blow the rest out of the water, and a spicy seafood jambalaya of prawn, catfish and Andouille sausage smothering rice for a Creole experience unbeaten in the UK. But that’s why you’re here.
On the side, creamed greens and mac & cheese, because clearly we haven’t learned our lesson in portions.

Ending the meal evening with a few neat spirits to celebrate the impressive and unique back bar, the Michter’s Toasted Barrel Finish Rye on the nose is a glory. Caramel and sweetest cinnamon carouse around nutty warm spice. Opening with hazelnut and soft marzipan, the honeyed powder spice ends chocolatey and smokey with soaking, sugared dates and fig. What a gorgeous dram.

Finally, here they come – flaming Baked Alaska and oreo cheesecake to end the meal. Perfection, this Alaska, blue and radiant, and the oreo cheesecake a decadent chocolatey delight. By this point we basically recruited two more people to help make our way through the meal. But honestly, we wouldn’t have had it any other way.

Finally, to conclude, the Long Pond 11-year-old 2007 Rum. Wow. This one is unforgiving and smooth – blasting your palate with spice and florals before descending into familiar cocoa and cigar smoke and coffee bean. A perfect alternative to a cigar.

The Fat Bear is somewhat overlooked as one of the most hedonistic nights out in the City, and possibly in London. You might have shaved a solid 5 years off your lifespan but by Screamin’ Jay Hawkin’s false septum piercing it was damn well worth it. I mean you’re sitting at the bar across from the entire Pappy’s whiskey selection and the Antique range by Buffalo Trace while filled with cheese, you aren’t in any place to complain.

Even if you’re just popping by on the way home from work for a pair of corndogs and a bourbon, come down to this little Louisiana haven – you won’t regret it.

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

The Fat Bear

61 Carter Ln,
London EC4V 5DY

http://www.thefatbear.co.uk

Cocktails in the City 2019, London

Once again, Cocktails in the City is coming into serve thirsty Londoners some of the best cocktails London has to offer!

Yes, CitC 2019 is a bringing 25 of London’s most exciting bars in the subterranean lairs of The Waterloo Vaults for a raucous three-day celebration of the city’s unique and diverse drinking scene.  Festival-goers will get a chance to enjoy bars from around the city coming together in one gorgeous location on April 4th – 6th.

Bars and a representing brand set up stalls where bartenders presented the brand in a cocktail of their devising to the public for judging, with scores gathered at the end of the weekend.

Expect cocktails from renowned London bars like the new Heads + Tails, the B&H Buildings, Nightjar, and more! And be ready for the appearance of international cocktails bars flying in for the experience!

This year “guests can sip their way through new trend-surfing drinks as they discover each arch transformed into a new drinking emporium. Watch London’s top bartenders square up in the ‘CITC Battle Ring’, explore ‘The Botanical Cove’ bursting with flora and fauna, take a seat in our ‘Subterranean Speakeasies’, taste the future in ‘The Experimental Lab’, sip champagne in the ‘F*&K Me I’m Famous Arch’ or get down and dirty in the ‘Dive Den’.”

Cocktails in the City showcases the world’s most inventive  and original cocktail bars, bringing together the cream of London’s illustrious cocktail culture, all within sipping distance of each other.
Cocktails in the City is a bar-hopper’s paradise, creating a village of pop-up bars for guests to explore, each with their own unique aesthetic, hosting tastings, workshops, games and of course, a plethora of talented mixologists creating out-of-this world cocktails.”

CITC 2019 is prepared to dazzle this year, with a whole host of new experiences that leaves the Hoodooist stunned and excited!

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Get lost in the Secret Garden

Enter the Secret Garden and discover a world full of flora and fauna, overflowing with plants and botanicals. Explore B&H Buildings’ sensory Greenhouse on the mezzanine where you can choose your garnishes from the hanging plants discover new botanical cocktails with Mr Foggs and enjoy a drink in the garden.

Party hard in The Good Times Vault

Get down and dirty in the Good Times Vault, with favourite party bars such as London Cocktail Club, and  enter a world where the drinks are always strong, the music is always loud and the night is always young.

Witness cocktail wizardry in the Experimental Lab

Learn from the famed industry mavericks driving the city’s cocktail trends. Marvel at their cocktail wizardry in the experimental lab and get a sneak peak of the innovative techniques used to create award winning drinks.

Pretend you’re famous in the House of Luxe

Sit back, relax and enjoy luxurious surroundings and sumptuous champagne drinks from London’s most exclusive cocktail institutions.

Travel back in time in the underground bunker

Bringing you raucous good old fashioned fun, step back in time with Cahoots as they bring their underground tube carriage to the iconic London venue.

Discover a new favourite bar in The Neighbourhood

With new bars popping up all over London, find a new favourite as we bring you the critics’ pick of Neighborhood hangouts from a multitude of further afield boroughs. Zone 5 here we come!

Become an international jetsetter

Be swept away to the giddy romance of Florence and sample Negronis galore as we bring you a bar all the way from bella Italia.

Don’t forget! The Tasting Flight, where guests can sample three cocktails and pick their favourite: just £7.50 for three taste-tests alongside the Sensory Cocktail Journey where sight, sound, touch and smell are used to craft bespoke cocktails based on your emotion.

“Guests are encouraged to try their hand behind the bar, explore new trends, sip on some of the world’s newest and most premium spirit and liqueur inventions and taste unusual and rare ingredients, as Cocktails in the City takes you on a cocktail adventure through London’s drinks scene in one night, without even having to leave the building.”

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Some favourites from years past include:

The Looking Glass Cocktail Club, Shoreditch – harking back to Maker’s Mark’s history as breadmakers, this cocktail is inspired by Italy’s sweet panettone bread loaf and it’s potent almond flavour.

The Maker’s Baker cocktail mixes Maker’s Mark whiskey, cider reduction with winter spice, Americano vermouth, ‘Liquid Panettone’, and Sinner Bitters. A sweet wintery Manhattan with heavy mix of cinnamon, nutmeg and spices, with lingering almond certainly took centre stage with it’s innovative homemade creations of ‘liquid panettone’ and spiced cider reduction.

Other cocktails presented by LGCC included the Honey Loaf, and Fig Muffin – each an excellent rendition on the baker/distiller theme.

12744739_10153957679234559_6169763058429716269_n

Fifteen, Old Street, came in with another winner! Inspired by Wimbledon’s classic, the Strawberries and Cream.

Inspired by Behn’s Milk Punch, this summery cocktail gets a 300 year update and is a massive mix of Langley’s gin, strawberries, whole milk, Dolin dry vermouth, coconut water, green tea, lemon juice and peels, sugar, pink peppercorns, tarragon and coriander seeds.

And what a fabulous mix it is!

A wonderful well balanced, silky cocktail, sweet without being overbearing and mellowed by the fruit and spices. Absolutely fantastic.

fifteen

Another great cocktails from CITC’s past is the the Reverend JW Simpson with their Larder Batch: Four Roses Small Batch Bourbon, Pinot Noir and pink peppercorn reduction, cardamom bitters and angostura bitters; with a steak accompaniment. In terms of presentation, it stuck with the theme of the bar and the Four Roses bourbon, and the service was conversational, fun, and effervescent like the event itself. The accompaniment suited both the intense aspects of the drink, the bourbon, and Pinot Noir/pink peppercorn reduction – here the Reverend presents us with a steak dinner in a cocktail format and a nibble; the natural spiciness of the Four Roses Small Batch, and that of the peppercorn and cardamom suits the steak perfectly. The Reverend excelled on all fronts and more.

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So if you love your cocktails, get yourself a ticket asap, and see you at Cocktails in the City 2019!

The Vaults
Leake St, Lambeth,
London SE1 7NN

Thursday 4th, Friday 5th and Saturday 6th April: From 6 – 11.30pm
Tickets are priced at £20 and include a cocktail, multiple complimentary experiences and cocktail booklet.

www.cocktailsinthecity.com

The Edgbaston Boutique Hotel, Birmingham

Type of Bar: Hotel, Art Deco
Damage: ££-£££
Ideal for: Small Groups, Date, Afternoon Tea

On my last post we explored some of the stars of the Birmingham bar scene, but it’s time we talked about what they had in common – both managers of Nocturnal Animals and 18/81 are alum of the award-winning B’ham institution that is the Edgbaston.

So, after an all-nighter of working on my Bites Here and There conference lecture, what a relief it was collapse onto my bed at the Edgbaston Boutique Hotel. Massive room in a Grade II listed building, gorgeously done in black and gold Art Deco, extending from the theme that dominates the hotel yet contrasting against the Victorian architecture. After a long shower, you know full well I raided room service to find out:

Room. Service. Cocktails.

I can imagine you also already know full well the 15 GBP half-bottle of Moet & Chandon champagne in the fridge accompanied me into the free-standing Victorian bathtub in the middle of room soaked with Elemis Lavender bath oils, along with the room serve Smokey Old Bastard cocktail.

And once one’s had their fill of Sevdaliza’s ISON, turning on the TV to find Diana Rigg announcing she wants ‘Cersei to know it was her’ made for a fantastic pre-birthday treat to turn a bedroom into a pseudosauna after a few hours in the bath.

So, outside the superb boutique hotel experience, what do we have to say about the bar?

The first night’s cocktail was probably my favourite of my weekend in Birmingham (alongside the Oaxaca at 18/81). The Smokey Old Bastard mixes Aberlour A’Bunadh whisky, Ardbeg 10 yr, Pedro Ximinez sherry and Maple.

Now you know I love it already. The A’Bunadh powers through gorgeously. A classic sherry-heavy whisky, the Oloroso butts impart those orange and Xmas spices notes to the nose. The palate is indulgent, and wintery – dark chocolate, cherries, lots of dry fruit and warm spice. Being cask strength, the finish is powerful and lasting, bittersweet and spicy. A favourite. Adore this whisky.

The Ardbeg 10, refusing to be outdone, cuts through the sweetness of the Aberlour, maple and PX sherry with a machete of citrus and smoke, and refuses to be ignored. Balancing the sweetness of the cocktail perfectly, the Smokey Old Bastard is beautifully balanced between spicy smoke and sweet, deep sherry, nutty, chocolatey goodness.

We’ve all dated this guy before and kind of regret dumping him.

The next day is a blur of trains and conferences, but I’m back to see a dear friend at the Edgbaston bar – now I get to enjoy the venue as it should be. Black and gold décor with our wonderful hosts, manager Tommy and bartender Matt who are absolute delights to spend an evening with and wizards behind the bar. This isn’t counting the quiet library bar in the next room, or the golden basement bar.

She orders the Strawberry Vale, and I love to see cocktail return to a simplicity that works. Hendrick’s gin, cucumber, prosecco and fresh strawberries. Vanilla that normally cowers bursts through, encouraged by the strawberry – cucumber trails in on the tails of the prosecco.

Finally, a question I repeatedly asked myself in the 10-hour chore that was Lord of the Rings, Who Wants To Go To Mordor Anyway?

Sacred gin mixed in with Lagavulin 16 yr whisky, Campari, fresh lemon and a waste-fruit tepache. The sweetened ferment provides a powerful sour tropical flavour that dominates the cocktail, but still saves some modesty to allow the peat and brine of the Lagavulin 16 in, accompanied on arm by the bitter Campari.

This drink is a fascinating experience for the adventurous drinker, but for the novice the strong flavours might be a bit of a challenge.

Between the immaculate service and delightful company, the spectacular drinks and wonderful surrounds, one can see why the Edgbaston has won its awards. And with the superb rooms upstairs, this three-bar venue is worth the stay – the alum of the excellent bars of Birmingham graduating from their stations at the Edgbaston is a testament to the hotel’s originality and talent behind the bar. If you do anything in Birmingham, come down to the Edgbaston with a Smokey Old Bastard on hand.

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

The Edgbaston Boutique Hotel

18 Highfield Rd,
Birmingham, B15 3DU


https://www.theedgbaston.co.uk

18/81, and Nocturnal Animals, Birmingham

Someone should have let me know that I was sleeping on Birmingham’s bar scene cause damn.

Spending a weekend in the Midlands at the Bites Here and There conference, the Hoodooist and friends got to crawl around some of the most impressive cocktails bars B’ham has to offer.

18/81

Type of Bar: Speakeasy
Damage: ££
Ideal for: Small Groups, Date

I ain’t gonna tell you how to find this venue, but follow your gut. London’s speakeasies could learn a thing or two about how to….be an actual speakeasy from 18/81.

Once in, the décor is clean and simple, a risky decision but lord, was I happy to not see a speakeasy made of low lights and leather armchairs.

This menu unapologetically revels in the return of vodka and that is so refreshing to see.

The Oaxaca

The Oaxaca mixes mezcal, mole negro, red Muscat, and served with a dark chocolate garnish.

“Is this just you in a glass?” Natalie of legal and IT recruiters Tap Search asks.

And she has a point. Smoky mezcal with hints of white pepper gives into lightly floral sweet Muscat, before being a submerged into dark chocolate and spicy chilli, from the savouriness of the mole. Do I love this cocktail? It goes on forever and stands as one of the best I’ve had in a while,and certainly the best I’ve had in Birmingham (in competition with the Smokey Old Bastard by the Edgbaston Hotel).

The Garden to Glass

The Garden to Glass serves vodka, wild nettle, cut grass, and garden herbs

Spectacular. Icy vodka prickled with fresh, grassy notes and effervescent nettle that cuts through the herbs. If light cocktails are your style, this is what you need.

Le Jardin once again gives us vodka, this time with jasmine, wormwood, and wild flowers. I have mixed feelings here. I do like the perfumed nature of the drink, and the anisey wormwood, but it feels a little *too* perfumed. If you like bitter and floral, here’s your cocktail, an acquired taste though it is.

The Shandong Blonde, and Le Jardin

The Shandong Blonde, a mix of vodka (Well, this has clearly made a comeback), Szechuan pepper flower, citrus, borage honey. Sweeter, if a bit confused. Maybe I’m just being fussy after the Oaxaca and Garden to Glass? The light floral spice feels a bit conflicted against the powerful raw honey sweetness of the borage honey. It doesn’t taste how you’d expect it, while also tasting exactly how you’d expect it to.

With a spectacular team behind the bar, service is impeccable. 18/81 serves us an amazing experience, down to the hunt for the venue.

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

18/81
Thorp St,
Birmingham B5 4AU

http://1881birmingham.co.uk/

Nocturnal Animals

Type of Bar: Bar/Restaurant
Damage: ££
Ideal for: FoodSmall Groups, Date

Talk about a showstopping look. Black walls, blue banquettes, neon against a massive bar – complete with multi-sensory distortion dividers (touch em, you’ll see what I mean). Nocturnal Animals knows how to turn a look – and don’t miss the IG opportunities downstairs!

This menu is set up in an excellent manner – each section has a base spirit and set of ingredients, followed by three takes on that mix – the Short, the Sharp, and Long – each a longer version of the prior.

The Short Pisco, adds pink grapefruit, rosewater, peach, Turmeon Rose vermouth, Aperol, and Japanese peach bitters to the mix.

The fruit of the Turmeon Rose Vermouth comes through on the nose quite spectacularly. The palette is similarly sweet, but not overwhelmingly so. For its sweetness, the drink is perfectly short, since it would take you as long to drink.

Wonderfully fruited from the vermouth and fruits, the pisco and Aperol just pull it back from a fructose hell into being a fabulously balanced sweet cocktail with a mild winter spice hit. Wave after wave of fruit notes make this a rollercoaster delight.

The Short Pisco

The Short Gin, mixes green chilli, pear eau de vie, Turmeon weed vermouth, and charred fennel bulbs.

Now, there is a lot to be said about the political ramifications of racism and the prison system in the legal cannabis market but anyway, here we are being edgy.

That said, this Martini works excellently, though is an acquired taste. The gin is drowned out by the other ingredients, however. The bright chilli is immediately followed up by the cannabis flavour of the vermouth and fennel, but eventually settling on the sweeter notes of the pear and vermouth, and a great long finish.

The Short Gin

Remember to book, this place is booked up and take in all this dystopian sexiness.

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

Nocturnal Animals
20 Bennetts Hill,
Birmingham B2 5QJ

https://www.nocturnal-animals.co.uk/

Join us again next time for our review of the Edgbaston Hotel, Birmingham!