It’s no secret that the lockdown has hit the food and drinks industry pretty hard. And though we have lost icons across the globe like Harry’s Bar, we have to push forward and through.
The lockdown has, however, given the cocktail-delivery micro-industry a huge boost, and among them, Halo Drinks!
And it makes perfect sense. We’ve seen a spike in the pub quizzes on Zoom of those quarantined, with big ups in sales in retail and newsagents, so why not drink in style with the massive variety of cocktail delivery services by bars and companies across London.
Halo comes to us with over 50 years of combined experience behind the wheel, and a pretty solid selection of 9 cocktails in 5-7 serve bottles between 22 and 28 quid (4 quid cocktails? Yes, please!) and all you gotta do is pour em!
So with a sunny day on the balcony, let’s get pouring!
A summer classic, oh how I missed you: the Tommy’s Margarita serves up tequila blanco with lime and agave syrup for that perfect sunny tipple.
I was impressed! A little bit on the sweeter side for most Margs, but this bottle Tommy’s holds its own out there, and is pretty approachable for those shy of agave drinks.
The Rosé All Day is a playful summer cocktail with Provence Rosé wine, rum, rose liqueur, Cointreau, Pama pomegranate liqueur, rhubarb bitters and lemon
So this one right here is a custom by Halo, and runs the risk of of having a bit too much going on. However, it works. It sets out to be a sweet, light, summery swig that packs a punch. Deceptive and sly, you’re gonna catch yourself when you stand up from the picnic blanket.
I do wish there was a bit more differentiation between the flavours, but that’s me being picky. If you’re looking for a sweetly fruity and floral drink with a late kick, you found it.
Halo Drinks is one more in a line of companies and bars setting out to deliver cocktails around the city, and they’re doing a great job at it. My one real critique would be to list the brands involved in their cocktails too, though that isn’t the end of the world now is it?
Pour yourself a Rosé All Day and question what day it is in the sun.
As the days bleed into one another and 2020 continues to descend into a Lovecraftian viral-haunted and hornet-swarmed nightmare; once all the online classes have been taken, the cupcakes baked, the Animal Crossing island maxed, one can appreciate the joy of receiving a box in the mail of a selection of Bajan distillery Foursquare’s fave selection of rums.
So a round of applause for Brand Ambassador Peter Holland organising this fabulous at-home experience, and Richard Seale of Foursquare, a veritable treasure trove of knowledge of the rum industry.
Free from added sugar and flavourings, Foursquare’s Barbados rums are made with molasses, and distilled through both pot and column stills, hopefully ready to give us the best of both!
Let’s cut to the chase and get down to business! Beginning with the Doorly’s 3 Year Old (47% ABV)! The 47% is a development on the 40%, the pricier higher proof being a small sacrifice to make to meet bartender tastes for this characteristic Doorly’s gem.
Almost entirely clear if not for the hint of straw, the Doorly’s 3 YearOld (47% ABV) enters the fray with a nose packing a vanilla punch over the boozier aromas, followed by tropical fruits of coconut and hints of banana, freshly cut pineapple and cut-grass.
That tropical sweetness on the tongue puts up a fierce battle, but soon gives way to an oakier, smokier flavour I adore, finishing with a shameless but short boozy kick. What a joy, this one, can’t wait to make some citrus cocktails with this one.
The classic that taught everyone what the Hyacinth Macaw was, the Doorly’s XO is a Bajan standard of 43%, a rum matured in Oloroso sherry casks: and you can tell.
The deep amber releases a nose of light fruitiness, toffee, and hints of vanilla, and the flavours – oof. The initial sweetness of oak and vanilla unveil a wintery spiced and caramelised orange, whose citrus restrains the sweetness of the rum. And then comes dessert, the cocoa and raisins so characteristic of an Oloroso finish. What a classic.
A shade darker and drier, the Doorly’s 12 Year Old rum (43% ABV) is blended in Madeira casks, harkening to the booze history of Barbados. Boy, if that nose isn’t keeping the Doorly’s style going: more of the banana, candied orange and sweet pineapple – with added risque leather and tobacco.
And that flavour? The spice swans right in, it lingers on your tongue, there is a confidence here that is a privilege. The tobacco, and cocoa, and roasted coffee bean tempers the vanilla and dry oak, with a long but very subtle finish of shaved Ceylon cinnamon. Honestly. A joy.
Oh we pulling out the big guns already?
The Nobiliary 14 year blend is taking no prisoners with that cask strength 62% ABV, as the 12th release of the Exceptional Cask series, it has a lot to live up to.
Currently only available at the Whisky Exchange for the UK, the Nobiliary and- Oh 7 heavens I got distracted, that NOSE.
I could sniff this all day. That incredible aroma of ripe, ripped figs, of plums segmented and dipped in syrup, the sweetness of dates swollen in the sun, vanilla and shaved sweet coconut mingle with bright, firecracker spice. I am in love.
Sip it: You want tropical fruit? You got it. You want the familiar stone fruits of preserves and autumn? You got it. You want ginger and cinnamon and bay leaf and clove and hints of sherry? You got it all.
Complex, dry, a whirlwind. A long finish of spice and fruit. The prior Exceptional Casks were wonderful, but the Nobiliary is not here to play. This is it.
The Nobiliary felt like the peak of the evening, so I gazed rather warily at the Crisma: a rum cream liqueur.
Aged rum, vanilla, coffee, cream? Seems threatening enough. Yes, there are things that scare me. Cream liqueurs are that category. One fears the edging closer to tipsily watching the Downton Abbey Christmas Special on Boxing Day.
I take that back. I take that all back. The Crisma is a *!&£(!@$* delight.
It’s your every high-school guilty pleasure after its 20-something glow up.
Throw the buckets of sugar out the window, enjoy a restrained, subtler, unapologetic cream liqueur that has nothing to prove and everything to give. The Crisma is going to *dominate* winter.
A longstanding fan of Foursquare, I knew I was in for a treat when the box came in, but I wasn’t expecting just what I was in for. The Doorly’s 3, 12 and XO have always been classics, and they won’t let us forget that. But mate, the Nobiliary and Crisma? They decimated.
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.
“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.
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.
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.
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.
Charming BOLD Brand Ambassador Tomas Lenko welcomes us into London’s popular Hide Bar, famous for its policy on primarily serving up spirits and ingredients prepared in London.
Many have probably already encountered BOLD London Spirit, an enigmatic little bottle popularly known as a cherry aperitif, but in reality a much more versatile cherry based spirit in its own right alongside vodka, gin and other cocktail bases we all know and love.
At 36% ABV, it packs a punch, but it doesn’t dull the flavours of cherry, cloves, or cassia. Inspired by the flavours of his childhood and the varieties of wild cherries in the UK, sour cherry bursts forth, followed immediately by bitter and floral notes of spices – making it a fantastic digestif as well.
An up-by-the-bootstraps project, the home-grown spirit is a tribute to life in London.
The Strongman’s Sour mixes BOLD, lemon, orgeat, chocolate bitters for an excellent nightcap. A sweet sour, the cherry settles in with the chocolate like the perfect liqueur candy, with the nuttiness and floral of the orgeat lifting it up from being too heavy. How rare is it for me to love a drink with chocolate bitters?
The BOLDvardier gives us BOLD, Campari and sweet vermouth for a wonderfully fruity take on the classic, and is much more forgiving for those who struggle with the strong whiskey flavours of a classic Boulevardier. Instead the BOLD removes the need for a cherry garnish and instead replaces it with a bright and uplifting orange, which classically intensifies the brighter flavours of the vermouth and Campari.
And in time for the summer, the Chelsea Rose is a tall tipple with BOLD, raspberry, apple – super-sweet, yet somehow not offensively so. Perfect for the summer, classic fruit flavours of cherry, apple and raspberry make it a great grown up juice box.
And in a world where G&Ts are a dime a dozen, the Hoodooist is pleased to see the B&Tbe a refreshing change – and something that changes the way we approach an icy summer afternoon fruit cocktail. BOLD, Tonic, ice, sorted.
Two years down the line, BOLD continues to be one of the more intriguing additions to the London drinks scene, and one that I massively enjoy. Cherry liqueurs are too cloying, but as a spirit, BOLD allows us to enjoy the flavours in a completely different way – as an aperitif, a digestif, a winter warmer like the Strongman’s Sour, or a summer sip like the Chelsea Rose – as easily as ordering a BOLD and Tonic.
Bobby Fitzpatrick lounges over two floors of 70s nostalgia and low lighting – and the upper floor hosts a small choice of bar seats and a mini kitchen space (not just the kitchen for their pizzas, but like, a 70s kitchen. You’ll see what I mean) where a range of TheReal McCoy Rums were presented for tasting in the company of UK Real McCoy Ambassador, Gergo Murath.
Onto the rums!
The 3, 5 and 12 year rums are named after Bill McCoy, pioneer rum runner of the Prohibition, who’d park his boat bar stocked with Caribbean rum 3 miles off-shore in international water – lauded for serving his alcohol without toxic additives like turpentine, which illegal alcohol was often cut with in during the dry days. These Barbados rums are aged in charred Bourbon casks.
Citrus and floral wafts in with the youngest of the rums, the 3 year, along with the expected vanilla. My favourite of the three, the light straw coloured rum is smooth, woody and spiced with nutmeg and rich with caramel, almond and coconut. A long, warm length follows.
Light, strong, confident – fantastic for cocktails.
The sweet, fruity nose really stands out in the 5 year, and is much more familiar to the rum drinker. The oak and caramel palate is strong with the added kick of cinnamon. The length brings both the coconut we know and love from the 3 year as well as the welcome surprise of smoky tobacco.
Finally, the 12 year brings in an astonishingly smooth texture, and a chocolate nose with oaky sweetness.
Definitely for the discerning sweet tooth, take time to appreciate the rolling complexity of flavours, the buttery sweetness now presents a woody, spicy spark, with the sharpness of orange and tobacco. A lightly smoky finish with the slightest hint of pepper brings an end to the tasting.
And we were lucky enough to try the cocktail special at Bobby Fitzpatrick that ranked as the most popular drink of the season!
The Gran Hotel Barbados mixes the 5yr Real McCoy Rum with apricot, pineapple and lime, for a sweet drink that is instead light and refreshing. The caramel and coconut notes take centre stage, and the apricot holds the pineapple up for a well-balanced cocktail perfect for summer.
And if you’d rather got for something more indulgent, the Rumhattan is the sweeter alternative to its whiskey cousin, playing the part of paradoxical sweet aperitif. Deeply sweet and sweetly deep, you’ll want to take your time with this one, in comparison to the easy necking of the Gran Hotelabove.
Here at Bobby Fitzpatrick, The Real McCoy displayed their variety and versatility when it comes to producing this popular molasses spirit. With a pour for every occasion from light daytime sips to late night indulgent pours, serves can also come straight from a balloon glass with a cigar in the winter.
An excellent range of rums from the House of McCoy.
Fortaleza stands among the Hoodooist’s favourite tequilas available in the UK, and with good reason. The Blanco, Reposado and Anejo revel in gorgeous flavours of pine and agave, and the Still Strength Blanco is no different – now available in the UK.
In its purest form, what sets the Blanco Still Strength apart is it is delivered straight from the copper pot still, at 46% – compared to the Blanco at 40% – and it comes through in the flavour. Still packed in those man-blown bottles and hand-made stoppers, the bottling is classic.
Still beautifully smooth as we expect from Fortaleza, I….I actually prefer this to the Blanco.
The nose is earthy, strong notes of olive and agave, and as I’ve come to expect from the distillery (at least for me) pine. It’s livelier, earthier, slightly more vegetal, with the salty-peppery kick on a velvet feel.
The olive aroma really comes through when made into a Tequila Martini (not quite a 1942 without the bitters), for a strong kicker to wake you right up.
For the Hoodooist though, drinking it neat is the ticket.