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

SCOTCH Pop up 2016 @ Brown’s Hotel, Mayfair

Burns Night is almost here! To celebrate, we thought of the perfect place to celebrate this Monday, and hey, if you’d rather have a cosy night in, we’ve thrown in a couple of whisky cocktails to make at home at the end of the article!

Type of Bar: Whisky, Hotel, Pop up
Damage: ££££
Ideal for: Scotch, Date, Small Groups, Education

London Pop Up Scotch whisky Glenmorangie Milsean Browns Hotel Burns Night

Running till the 29th of January 2016, the Brown’s Hotel is hosting the SCOTCH pop up in their Library room, exhibiting 40 different Scottish whiskies and couple of scotch cocktails – A tribute to their sister hotel, the Balmoral’s, SCOTCH Bar.

Whisky Ambassador, Fraser Robson, has whiskies from all over the traditional regions at his disposal: Speyside, Islay, Campbeltown, the Islands, the Highlands and Lowlands in a variety of blends, malts and vintages dating back to 1940, and what a brilliant collection it is. Running from 15 pounds a dram, up to 400 (the Glenmorangie Pride 1978), the choice of whiskies is intimidating at first, but easier to traverse through with the brilliant Mr. Robson guiding you.


Sponsored by Glenmorangie, best to start their event with the Glenmorangie Original: a demanding golden yellow, a classic whisky. Intensely citrus on the nose, the initial flavours are more flowery, with a dark citrus length.

However, more discussion revolved around the launch of this year’s Glenmorangie Private Edition: the Milsean.

Glenmorangie Director of Distilling & Whisky Creation, Dr. Bill Lumsden, gushed over the whisky, and upon tasting it, we got an idea why. The Milsean is painfully nostalgic – inspired by Dolly’s Mixtures, the whisky is even named ‘sweet things‘ in Gaelic. It’s matured in ex-bourbon casks and then extra-matured in former wine casks that once housed red wines for Portugal’s Doura Valley, re-toasted for the purpose.

What we get is a sweet whisky, rich with moreish candied fruits, with a bright nose of fruit, sugary – like sherbet, and sugar cane. The palate begins with a blast of candy, then the tartness of candied orange peel, cherries and plum – followed by a long spicy finish of borwn sugar, winter spice, and maybe a bit of fudge?

The Milsean, for the Hoodooist, is definitely a unique whisky, with a very specific purpose. Much like it’s packaging of cherry and white vertical stripes – it’s a dessert whisky – a dram or two after dinner is all you need if you aren’t sweet of tooth and don’t mind bit of a burn.
London Pop Up Scotch whisky Glenmorangie Milsean Browns Hotel Burns Night

For cocktails, the first simple Orange Zest brought out the complexity of the citrus of the Glenmorangie Original with ginger ale and Angostura bitters, a simple enough drink, but a refreshing and effective one.

The second, the Spey Trip, is a fascinating drink, inherited by the SCOTCH pop up from the hotel’s resident Donovan Bar. Inspired by the Balvenie scotch it uses, and the Speyside region it hails from, the Spey Trip is constructed entirely from the scotch and its containers. The tumbler is the laser-cut bottom half of the Balvenie bottle, the platform it is served on also made from the Balvenie casks. An Old Fashioned using figs instead of sugar syrup, a spectacular drink that brings out the spicy sweetness of the Balvenie with the fig, which also appear as dried garnish (which dipped in the Old Fashioned taste incredible).

I was left torn about this drink by the end of it, since the first half was wonderfully layered and complex, but the last half became overwhelmingly sweet with the figs. And a whisky like Balvenie is a shame to lose.

The Spey Trip

The SCOTCH bar’s atmosphere is perfect for the venue, relaxed, subdued, with the occasional tartan – the Brown’s Hotel itself is a stunning building (from 1837), the interior sprawling, and couches numerous. And service is impeccable. A fantastic addition to the London whisky scene, and one I wish was permanent.


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

Brown’s Hotel

33 Albemarle Street, Mayfair
London, W1S 4BP


I mean, it *is* Burns Night tonight, and if you’re gonna stay in, might as well do it with a couple of easy to concoct cocktail at home, devised by Alexander & James.

The Haig Clubman

Haig Clubman
A refreshing tasting whisky cocktail which combines gentle spice and fruitiness perfectly.

50ml Haig Club
35ml Sparkling apple soda
6 dashes ginger bitters

Built over hand-cracked ice in either a highball or tumbler, garnished with a long slice of root ginger (ideally cut with a mandolin).

But hey, say you’re more of a bourbon person (what the hell are you doing here?) but say you are, we haven’t forgotten you!

The Apple Mint Julep

Apple Mint Julep
A light cocktail with a fruitful flavour and a hint of mint is perfect for a refreshing serve this
Burns Night.

60ml Bulleit Bourbon
90ml apple juice
A dash or two of bitters
3-4 mint sprigs

Muddle the mint and apple juice together in a cocktail shaker. Add the Bulleit bourbon, a couple dashes of bitters and ice to the shaker. Shake well for 20 seconds and then strain into a tumbler glass filled with cubes of ice. Garnish with a mint leaf if desired

That’s all, folks! Make sure to enjoy your Burns Night with your favourite scotch – we know we will!

Winter Cocktail Menu @ Blue Boar Bar, St. James

Type of Bar: Hotel
Damage: £ – ££
Ideal for: Small Groups, Large Groups, Food


Winter is upon us! And the Blue Boar Bar at the Conrad St. James has released a menu of 4 winter cocktails to enjoy along with their Christmas Bites food menu.

The sprawling Blue Boar rings with Xmas music across a gorgeous wooden bar, deep blue surrounds and quirky musical-instruments-turned-lamps decor. It might seem crowded on a weekend, but there is more space and privacy than there is at first glance.

Winter Cocktails Blue Boar Bar Conrad

The limited edition Winter Cocktails take a turn for the sweet, but the Jingle Bell Rock is great for something just a bit sweet without needing a dentist.

A combo of Havana 7 Rum, apple liqueur, cinnamon syrup, splash of blackberry puree create a cold cocktail where the vanilla and honey of the rum and blackberries dominate the palate, with the cinnamon dancing gleefully in the background without taking over the drink. A spicy-sweet apple finish to a well-balanced drink where the flavours marry rather well. Probably the best on the Winter cocktail menu!

Winter Cocktails Blue Boar Bar Conrad

The Jingle Bell Rock

The Santa Baby brings together vodka, strawberry liqueur and a dash of cream to create what is essentially a spiked strawberry milkshake! Chilly, with a fun glitter rim, the sweet creamy cocktail is fairly sneaky in terms of alcohol, but is rather thick. Though a friend was downing these pretty quickly, I myself ran only about halfway through before realising it was dessert – this will determine who on the table has a sweet tooth!

Winter Cocktails Blue Boar Bar Conrad

The Santa Baby

A batch of truffle chips for something savoury and salty before moving on to the third cocktail: the Hard Candy Christmas – vodka, chocolate liqueur, Disaronno amaretto, double cream. Personally, this one doesn’t quite work. The first sip is a punch in the face with chocolate liqueur, thick, before ending with slightly overpowering amaretto. The brand of liqueurs has that faux-chocolate flavouring to it which I myself found to be bit a of a turn-off – but hey, there must be someone we all know who’d enjoy it! I feel when put up against the rest of the menu, it is lacking.

Finally, ending with a simple Warm Winter Cider (at a fab 4 pounds!), a hot, slightly spiced and citrus cider to warm the bones before braving the cold outside again.

Winter Cocktails Blue Boar Bar Conrad

The Hard Candy Christmas

Service at the Blue Boar is fantastic, always swift, polite, and you don’t really have to worry about being checked up on – making it a discreet getaway during the winter season for an xmassy cocktail – and plus points if you hide yourself away in the private room to cosy up these winter months.

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


Blue Boar Bar @ The Conrad St. James

22-28 Broadway, St. James
London SW1H 0BH



Seymour’s Parlour @ The Zetter Townhouse, Marylebone

Type of Bar: Hotel, Lounge, Victorian
Ideal for: Date, Small Groups

After 69 Colebrook Row, Bar Termini, and the Zetter Townhouse Clerkenwell – Tony Conigliaro is back! Working with the newly opened Zetter Townhouse Marylebone, Seymour’s Parlour is instantly recognisable as its Clerkenwell relative with a more late Georgian twist.

Seymour's Parlour Zetter Townhouse Marylebone London Cocktail

Swathed in reds and greens, it’s a smaller space, but a comfortable one, overlooked by a portrait of the hotel’s fictional host, the Wicked Uncle Seymour.  Inspired by the tales of the travelling louche, the cocktails are indulgent, and tend to a few more fizzy drinks than the Clerkenwell cousin, also perhaps knowing its market in Marylebone.

Drinking in this beautiful space is almost like spending an evening at the John Soane’s Museum, and is a room that would not look amiss at the eccentric collector’s home. So reclining on a couch beside the fireplace, we have a quick look at the menu, and a few do stand out.

Seymour's Parlour Zetter Townhouse Marylebone London Cocktail

The Turf Club

The Hoodooist begins with the Turf Club – Old Tom Gin, Dubonnet, Grape Reduction, Peruvian Bitters, and grass. The grass is not in the cocktail itself: inspired by the racetracks, the stem of the glass is entwined with grass and a reduced grass oil coats it – leaving the fragrance on the fingertips of the drinker. It’s not in the drink itself.

The cocktail is incredible. A modern take on the popular vintage tipple adds a sweet grape reduction, and Peruvian bitters that enhance the quinine flavours of the Dubonnet while also adding a bit of spice and kick. The short drink is deep, strong, and enveloping – there’s something almost soporific about it.

The Old Tom’s initial hit is quickly followed but the grape reduction, finally settling on the quinine and sweeter layers of the Dubonnet, and ending on a dry note, though well-rounded. Addictive, a favourite.

Seymour's Parlour Zetter Townhouse Marylebone London Cocktail

The Madeira Sour, & a shot of Flashed Madeira

The Madeira Sour is one for the citrus fans: Cognac, Flashed Madeira, Lemon and Walnut. An easy drink, this one. The flashed Rainwater Madeira – or the sweet Madeira that is concentrated with heat – retains its dryness, and balances the drink wonderfully. A woody cognac base goes fantastically with the citrus flavours, and long length of walnut finish is an elegant conclusion to a very confident drink.

Seymour's Parlour Zetter Townhouse Marylebone London Cocktails

The Last Laugh

The Last Laugh anticipates the Autumn coming soon: Cognac, Cider Apple Brandy, Apple Caramel and Apple Wood Bitters. This was wave after wave of varying takes on apple flavours. Appearing in quick succession, the bright brandy is quickly followed by the caramels, finally ending with the young citrus cognac notes with undercurrents of warm woodiness. Sounds like easy drinking, but takes deceptively longer with its intense flavour.

Finally, there’s the Two-Pennie Trash – Rye Whiskey, Powdered Malts, Treacle. This was an odd one – couldn’t quite place exactly what it was that I was tasting. On first sip it’s almost effervescent – it does, however, taste primarily of malt and yeast. One for the marmite crowd, I’d imagine – an acquired taste.

Seymour's Parlour Zetter Townhouse Marylebone London Cocktail

The Two-Pennie Trash

A good 4 hours whiled away in the comforting candlelit space, with the blues in the background, and marvellous drinks in hand – manager Claudio and Steve are delightful hosts, and in its first weekend service is speedy and attentive. The Hoodooist is already plotting to return to taste the Rake and Le Sphinx.

Another fantastic venue from the Zetter Group and Tony Conigliaro – should come as no surprise from these legends.

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

The Zetter Townhouse Marylebone

30 Seymour Street
London W1H 7JB

Conrad Algarve, Portugal @ Conrad St. James

Type of Bar: Hotel
Damage: ££-£££
Ideal for: Lounge, Date, Small Groups


Wilson Pires, award-winning head-bartender of restaurant Gusto at the Conrad Algarve, Portugal, popped by the London St. James Conrad for a masterclass to show what the Algarve has to offer in it’s 18th century palace seaside surrounds.

Inspired by Faro, a pocket of tropic green overlooking the Gulf of Cadiz, Pires insists that all his cocktails come with a story, or make it as much of a multisensory experience as possible – including ostentatious garnishes, presentation, or incenses.

Portugal Conrad Algarve Cocktail

The Senhorita

The first drink from the Conrad Algarve menu, the Senhorita – driven by Pires’ perception of the feminine: lemongrass and grapefruit are mixed in small amounts into the lime juice, then the primary ingredient, the sweet raspberry puree is contrasted against the spicy/sour ginger juice, ending with the Portuguese Medronho fire-water brandy (Aguardente de Medronho) Castelo Silves.

Primarily a sweet drink, the raspberry dominated the palate, followed by the kick of ginger, the sourness of the lime mix lingers in the sidelines. The medrenho, powerful and ruthless when drunk neat, is tempered well into this cocktail, though the Hoodooist wishes it had a bit more of a presence, so as to not soften the cocktail *too* much.

Portugal Conrad Algarve Cocktail

Europe’s Best Kept Secret

Inspired by the Algarve itself, the Europe’s Best Kept Secret mixes Beefeater 24 gin, honey, bee pollen, eucalyptus tisane and grapefruit, accompanied by pine incense. The incense and the eucalyptus tisane provide a cooling balance to the other warm flavours. The warm bitterness of the bee pollen and the herbaceous eucalyptus are pronounced, resting on the most prominent grapefruit flavour. Initially an odd concoction, but a summer beach would bring this cocktail to life.

Portugal Conrad Algarve Cocktail


Finally, the Saudade attempts to condense the emotion into a cocktail by mixing Ginjinha (or simply Ginja) sour Morello cherry liqueur, Madeira wine, honey, salt water, and Port bitters. Continuing on Pires’ favoured theme of contrasts and opposites working together, Saudade attempts to bring the deep, bitter-sweet flavours linked to distant memories to life in the sweet-sour Ginja and Madeira, contrasted by the salt water and the similarly ambiguous Port bitters.

The result is the closest to what the Hoodooist might order of the three: a dark, intense, short cocktail that one really must take their time with, as it can be bit of a handful. The cherry hits first, but then seems almost softer in comparison to the stone-fruit and raisin heat of the Madeira. The salt water and Port bitters are not immediately perceptible, but notably affect the overall drink, adding width to the flavour profile.

Portugal Conrad Algarve Cocktail

The cocktails are notably different from what London normally has to offer, and certainly deserve a dry Mediterranean heat and sea salt spray to bring them to life – and very well will, in Wilson Pires’ inspired hands.


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



Gusto @ Conrad Algarve

Estrada da Quinta do Lago
8135-106 Almancil

Algarve, Portugal

The Whisky Lounge @ Hilton London Metropole, Edgware Road

Type of Bar: Hotel, Whisky, Lounge
Damage££ – ££££ (per dram)
Ideal for: Education, Date, Small Groups, After Work

Who can turn down a good ol’ whisky tasting?

The Hilton London Metropole’s Whisky Lounge hosts a stunning 80 whiskies visitors can order by the dram, or can come as a group to try out their whisky tasting sessions (hosting 3 to 5 whiskies at a time).

A calm blue-grey colour scheme with the most gorgeous lighting constructed out of laser-cut whisky decanters make the Hilton’s Whisky Lounge the perfect venue for the event, and though opens directly to the hotel main EDG Lounge and Bar, is not as loud as one might expect. Surrounded with an excellent selection of malts watching over the guests, many an hour can be whittled away here.

Seated at a table (brought in for the tasting events) the group is presented with four of the day’s choice whiskies: A Singleton of Dufftown 12yr, a Lagavulin 16yr, Suntory Yamazaki 12 yr, and finally a Kavalan (one the Hoodooist was keen to become acquainted with).

Whisky Tasting London

Guided by our whisky sommelier, the gang is first introduced to a healthy dram of the 12yr Singleton of Dufftown. A classic Speyside, the nose is nutty, with sweet fruits (dates?), wintery; with large tears.

Flavour is malty, intensely hazelnut, a rich Arabica coffee – with the Arabica’s hints of currant and toffee. Followed by a dry medium length of oak and the trademark Singleton fruit.

Milk chocolate was selected to pair with the whisky, intensifying the hazelnut even further, adding a liqueur quality to the whisky and greatly shortening the finish – a fantastic way to end a meal.

Whisky Tasting London

The Tasting Selection

The second whisky brought to the table, the Lagavulin 16yr – an Islay classic. The small, slow moving tears indicate a thick, rich whisky, and is renowned for having the smokiest nose of the Islay whiskies – reminiscent of smoky teas and sherries.

And there is that loud sherry flavour on the palate, dry and spicy, and unashamedly peaty. A large mouth on this one, confident, with its own sweetness, too. A long peppery finish with hints of vanilla.

Going fantastically well with smoky and spiced nuts, the Lagavulin 16yr is recommended for salty dinners or as a digestif for red meats.

Whisky Tasting London

Dram and pairings

We venture away from the isles to Japan, and the ludicrously popular Suntory Yamazaki 12yr. Utterly miniscule and slow tears hint at a thick and intricate experience ahead, and on the nose an almost candied orange scent, tropical fruit, but also cloves. An incredible nose on this one.

The entry is slow, but the flavours develop and become increasingly complex, first a winter spice and floral sweetness, followed by more of the tropical fruit and almost buttery. A long woody and spicy finish. A favourite across the table for its complexity.

Whisky Tasting London

Finally, the most eagerly awaited whisky of the evening, the Taiwanese Kavalan, is young, but said to mature quickly with the sub-tropical climes of the island – focusing on tropical fruit flavours.

Small but quick tears, the nose is woody, and very fragrant and floral. The opening is harsh, coarse. Once that trial is over, though, a wonderful mango and spicy oak develops, with a long refreshing finish.

Nonetheless, the table didn’t think that the delightful finish was worth the harsh opening. The Kavalan quickly fell to the bottom of most’s lists, leaving the Suntory Yamazaki 12yr, the most popular – and with all the awards it has collected over the years, it’s hardly a surprise!

Whisky Tasting London

The Kavalan

Service was excellent and our wonderful sommelier did a fantastic job leading the group through the whiskies, providing wonderful conversation along with an educational 2 hours. A highly recommended evening out for whisky novices looking to learn! Especially with this great collection.
This was a custom tasting and would have been priced at £42.00. The Hilton London Metropole have two types of tastings: Scottish and International. Guests can choose to have a tasting of 3-5 whiskies. An outline of prices are outlined below:

Scottish 3 : £26.00
Scottish 4 : £34.50
Scottish 5 : £42.00

International 3 : £38.00
International 4 : £50.00
International 5 : £61.00

All Inc VAT, but Excl Service Charge 10% (optional).

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

The Whisky Lounge @ Hilton London Metropole

225 Edgware Road,
London W2 1JU

Smokes and Tipples @ Hotel Xenia, South Kensington

The Hotel Xenia is back with their Smokes and Tipples tasting sessions! Sessions that bring together cigars paired with whiskies from their excellent humidor collection to their heated outdoor Living Wall Bar and Herb Garden.

Hosted by Hunters and Frankau, the UK’s official Cuban cigar importers, visitors will be presented with the cigar of choice along with a selection of whiskies to pair.


Escorted down the stairway with a glass of Prosecco, the living wall is a comfy, if small and cosy space. With music soft in the distance (thankfully, cigars and whiskey are for conversations), each visitor receives their own non-sulphur wooden matches and guillotine. If necessary, do ask staff to turn up the heating, it can get unseasonably cold in London this winter!

Cigars B&W

For a preview of what is to come at the Smokes and Tipples sessions at the Xenia, the Hoodooist was presented with a Petit Edmundo from the Casa de Montecristo. A short Robusto, the Edmundo is a 52 ring gauge (*whistle*) that would normally be recommended to more seasoned smokers, due to thickness and complexity.

Initially spicy, and rather vague in flavour (primarily tobacco, occasionally a red fruit), midway, flavours of bitter chocolate (which initially seemed like espresso) and something peppery. Excellent burn and self-correction, a great cigar to introduce.

Paired was the Glenfiddich 12yr, a typically Speyside whisky with its spicy-floral flavour to complement the Petit Edmundo. The sweet-ish finish goes fantastically with the after-taste of the Edmundo.


All in all, a pleasant experience to bring a friend or two along and relax with, with excellent service and masterclass by speakers and representatives of Hunters and Frankau to walk you through the entire session.

Smokes and Tipples

The next Smokes and Tipples event will run on the 12th of March 2015, with tickets going at £30.00.
To book, contact or call 0207 442 42 42.
Hotel Xenia

160 Cromwell Road, South Kensington,
London SW5 0TL