Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Presenting... Glenmorangie and Cigars at Boisdale

I'll be honest. The title of this article is rather a gentlemanly pursuit. And yes, there was only one female. That does not mean that this was not a completely unexpected night of great times. It was fab!

So, on a slightly shivery evening 10 of us, mainly cigar aficionados rather than whisky, sat down at Boisdale Canary Wharf's cigar terrace to get educated. Although mainly men, the average age was much lower than you'd expect, early thirties for most. Apparently, the trend for cigars is going the same way as whiskies; younger consumers are coming in both better educated and looking for more knowledge. 

We started with a fascinating break down of the cigar by Dan Pink of Hunters and Frankau, THE cigar wholesalers of the UK since 1790. He told us that the definition of a Cuban Cigar (still the world's best) is that 
(a) it is made in Cuba!
(b) it is hand rolled and 
(c) it is long filled...

Let me explain. You take apart a cigarette or a cheap cigar and the tobacco inside is all chopped up into shreds. You take apart a Cuban cigar and there are ONLY 5 leaves running the length of the whole thing, amazing! So once Dan had shown us (me) how to cut and light the cigar, this was paired with Glenmorangie Whiskies from the Highlands. 

(FYI The cigar was a Cohiba Madura 5 Genios)

There was the Original, the Lasanta, Quinta Ruban and Nectar D'Or. What was really interesting was that each whisky was the Original with 2 years in an additional finish. So the Lasanta was 2 years in Sherry casks and that added the spicy, slightly lino-y notes. Quinta Ruban - my favourite - was 2 years in Port. This lent a depth of colour and a sweetness. And Nectar D'Or was 2 years in Sauternes casks which I think is too tame a wine to lend much but everyone had their favourites. 

The surprise of the night was that the cigar - a "medium to full" - was really very enjoyable. Yes, I had to re-light it 4 times due to not drawing in smoke enough but as a first timer it was great! And Boisdale are far from the stuffy "Scottish" members club you may be imagining and is a modern airy space with great food and a stupendous bar with regular jazz to boot. Don't hesitate to book a (somewhat pricey) night here if any of this sounds appealing. You will not be disappointed. 

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Presenting... Sette Vie Liqueurs

Kensington Place Restaurant, perhaps not the first place you would think of to host a "Cocktail Academy" but that is exactly what they are doing, once a month.

We turned up in September to see what Sette Vie liqueurs were all about. The class started with a glass of prosecco, very civilised, and then we sat down on a big table and Paul Pavli of Boutique Brands explained how they first came across this family company and their shelved recipes, now restored and relaunched. All local herbs and flavours are used from their region of Abruzzo (for the wine lovers).

Brief history done, we moved onto tasting where we started with my favourite of the evening and something I have not come across before - Ratafia. This is a cherry and almond liqueur that can simply be described as bakewell tart in a bottle. This was then made into a twist on the French 75 but we preferred it over ice.
Christmas present for friends all round!

Then came their amaretto, universally declared as better, more real shall we say, than the "biggest name on the market" and made a delicious Amaretto Sour (shake with lemon juice, gomme and egg white). This was topped with a Ratafia soaked cherry, yum.

And lastly my nemesis of sorts as there are not many things I won't drink but Limoncello is one of them. I just think it tastes too much like cleaning product but no doubt this is a psychological block from my adolescent drinking experiences! However, mixed with vodka, lemon juice and sugar - I know, I also thought that would not work! - it became the best cocktail of the evening.

This is a lovely way to spend a Monday evening and we stayed for excellent fish pie too. The next one is in November - Dalmore Whisky - and they fill up fast so pop onto the website and join Imants and his fabulous bar team as soon as you can! 

Friday, 11 October 2013

London Cocktail Week: The Candy Store

Callooh Callay + Colin Dunn = pure entertainment. 

And once again this dream team have come together to present Charlie's Chocolate Factory set in the Candy Store (that will also run in the Upstairs Bar until end of November).

The 'room through the wardrobe' offers "alcoholic candy floss"; we chose rum and gingerbread, and a vodka, almond and cherry. They tasted...sugary... but were still  a delicious treat. Tables were packed with strawberry laces, popcorn, bonbons, gumballs and boiled sweets to help yourself to. And the menu, specially developed for the installment with fabulous whisky cocktails, is innovative as well as offering flights of whiskies and chocolate pairings if you missed the classes this week. Oh and did I mention that its made of rice paper, so yes, its edible! 

We were then invited through the curtains and up the stairs to The Candy Store with its fabulous red and white striped wall paper and rows and rows of old sweet jars. The whisky line up was Johnnie Walker Black, Gold and Platinum and each was accompanied by a "bean to bar" chocolate morsel carefully considered by chocolatier Amy Woods. They were well matched, especially the last example which really added a biscuity almond element, but I have to say I would have enjoyed a good truffle more...

I like these whiskies the "wrong way round" with Gold at the top, Black then Platinum. But it was a mere whiff of Lagavulin that got the most appreciation in the room and made my plus one immediately declare himself for Islay. 

The cocktail menu here is why you should visit, immediately. If it is possible, I think this may be their best one yet! 

Thursday, 10 October 2013

London Cocktail Week: Disaronno Sour Station

LCW 2013 is back for its third year, and its second year in its Seven Dials home. I headed to the Ketel One hub early afternoon on Monday morning (although they had opened the hub the weekend before to collect your wristband if you were organised enough). No big queues like last year, though this was late afternoon, and friendly staff on hand to get your registration through an ipad. 

I grabbed the literature (a book of all the bars offering £4 cocktails, a trial Time Out card and a Seven Dials map) and fully intended to head away as I had an event on. However, any free space in the area has been packed out with treats like the Monkey Shoulder DIY kitchen, the Belvedere Martini rooms, Portobello's Gin Club and so so much more from cocktails in shops to a shave and a shot stopping by the Bacardi Brown Foreman classes en route!

And in the street even there is Funkin Cocktails, Fevertree, Averna liqueurs and a Disaronno bike, pedaling (ha, get it?!) a simple citrus serve that tastes really very good.

So you have 3 days left, make the most of it. An if you don't know where to go just pick any Seven Dials street and see what you come across!