I finally had chance to go on a cocktail pilgrimmage to New York and will be blogging about the experiences over the next few weeks.
First impressions of New York were very encouraging on the liquid refreshment front. Our hotel, the Washington Square, had a cosy basement lounge. Remarkably they stocked my favourite beer from back home: Thornbridge Brewery’s Jaipur. They also had their own Washington Square Cocktail that combined Sweet Vermouth, Orange Bitters and Champagne. It would have been rude not to check it out, and it was a pleasant manhattan take on the Kir Royale. Not too much Vermouth. Nice and dry.
Exploring Manhattan on foot the next morning, I bailed out of a diversion to Macey’s with the better half. Throwing caution to the wind I decided to hole up in the brew pub next door to the Empire State Building entrance. Despite the soulless clash of faux old timey decor and sports/theme bar merchandising, they did make some tasty ales including the rich and nutty Red Rooster. The Beer Hall downstairs had a little more character. And some great 60s funk tunes on the stereo.
Experimental Cocktail Club
Tucked away in a quiet Paris side street, just off the funky Rue Montorgueil, is a petite bar with a growing reputation for it’s cocktails. The Experimental Coctktail Club has opened bars in London and New York, but it was nice to have the opportunity to check out the original Club in Paris. Smart and with a subtle Speakeasy feel, it’s a down to earth bar with friendly staff. We tried 4 very drinkable cocktails from the short menu. Some original creations and some creative but subtle variations on the classics. All were well made. The highlight was the Porto Los Cabos with Tequila and Tawny Port and the Brunette which featured Cognac and Sherry.
Experimental Cocktail Club, 37 Rue Saint-Sauveur 75002 Paris, France
The annual Leeds Loves Food festival is always a great chance to sample some of the local culinary delights on offer from Yorkshire and beyond. If you didn’t manage to make it along, we did the hard work of tasting our way across Millenium Square, and have blogged the highlights for you.
Cocktails were popular across the festival with a number of bars and restaurants mixing up drinks for the punters. Azucar were complimenting their spanish food offerings with a number of cocktails, and we enjoyed their Caipirinhas. These were much better than the cocktails we sampled in the actual Azucar bar recently. Both the Jakes Bar and Grill and the Latitude bartenders were shaking up proper cocktails and exchanging banter with the crowds. Latitude were selling some decent rums and running a number of interesting tasting sessions. They run regular tasting events that are well worth checking out. The Epernay Champagne bar is one of Leeds’ best kept cocktail secrets, and although their stand at the festival was a little unexciting, a visit to their bar down at the bottom of the Carriage Works is highly recommended. As is Aglassto next door.
Real ales were well represented and some samplings from the Wensleydale Brewery went down a treat. The Falconer session ale was a particular favourite, easy drinking but with a hint of citrus on the finish. Perfect for a hot afternoon. Just round the corner, the recently revived Kirstall Brewery Company were showcasing their new ales. They’ve only been brewing for 9 weeks, but have already scored a “Beer of the Festival” award from the Skipton Beer Festival for their Black Band Porter. The mobile pub come ice cream van that is Mr Frothy, was parked up next door and serving up Kirkstall’s ales. Great stuff.
A number of stalls selling interesting drink ingredients caught our eye. Despite it being a temperance bar, Mr Fitzpatrick’s range of old fashioned cordials looked like interesting cocktail ingredients. We tried the Cream of Soda and the Sasparilla which were both delicious. We were a little disappointed to find the Cream of Soda didn’t mix too well with a slug of Whisky. It didn’t exactly curdle, but perhaps we were working against the grain… Raisthorpe Manor had brought along their range of Yorkshire made liqueurs, including a fresh raspberry gin liqueur and a delicious sloe port that has to be tasted to be believed. Highly recommended.
Of course we also enjoyed some of the food offerings at the festival and stocked up on some goodies to take home with us. A number of stalls were selling quality sausages and despite the mighty Lishmans of nearby Ilkley being in contention, our favourites were the Wild Boar and Apple from Supreme Sausages. The Spanish style Salts Deli won us over with their range of moreish pastries. Their tiny shop just inside the entrance to the Radisson Hotel in the Light is easy to miss but well worth a visit. Finally, we were big fans of The Yorkshire Forager‘s Hawthorn Berry based sauces, which you can pick up on their excellent website.
On a recent trip to Finland I spent a day in the European Capital of Culture: Turku. Following the international theme, I ate in a Brazilian restaurant. Not quite what I was expecting to find in the old capital of Finland, but the delicious food and fabulous Caipirinhas made it a worthwhile visit. I was reminded of how welcome a quality classic cocktail is. A handful of ingredients and a time honoured recipe can’t be that hard to get wrong, but its amazing how many bars and restaurants deliver under-par drinks. Whether its an overly sweet Daiquiri, a Mojito thats been muddled to a minty death or a caipirinha that doesn’t even have any Cachaca in it. At least its not necessary to go all the way to Brazil for a decent Caipirinha, but surely finding a Brazilian bartender shouldn’t be a prerequisite? Anyway, full marks to Bossa for doing a great job. How the Helsinki branch of this great eatery failed to thrive I’ll never know.
Welcome to the new PartyCocktails.com blog, which replaces the MixShakeAndPour.com blog. Expect the usual mix of new cocktails recipes, drink and food reviews, and assorted mixology chat. MixShakeAndPour.com itself will also be moving to this new URL, very soon. In the meantime I’ll be blogging here from now on.
Market Town Taverns has been quietly building a reputation in Yorkshire for quality pubs that provide a decent alternative to the hugely commercial pub chains that in places seem to have a stranglehold on town and city drinking. The ten pubs of the ‘Taverns group focus on quality beer and wine, most play no music and (most importantly) there are no TVs. One of the most recent Tavern openings was Veritas on Great George Street in Leeds. I’d heard the food was a little more special than the usual fair in other Tavern pubs, and recently got the chance to try it out.
Niche Nosh is a catering company based at the pub that gives the venue something a little extra special. As well as doing event food they provide meals and a deli counter alongside the usual quality drinks to be found in a Market Towns Tavern. Starting with a pint of Ruby Mild from the Rudgate Brewery, I was quickly tempted by the delights of the deli counter and ordered a spread of nibbles that arrived on a Lazy Susan. Locally sourced, and put together with a lot of care and attention, the deli selection was outstanding. Cheeses on offer included the award winning Yorkshire Blue, Barncliffe Brie, both blue and white Wensleydales and a goats cheese from East Yorkshire. Other highlights included rich onion chutney, cold pressed rapeseed oil from Collingham and some tender, perfectly cooked cold meats. The service was excellent and the staff were happy to stop and discuss the menu and make recommendations. 7 items from the deli menu came in at just over a tenner.
The only thing needed to round off a perfect meal (apart from a portion of rich sticky toffee pudding) was a pint of Ilkely Brewery’s citrusy Mary Jane pale ale: a close second only to Thornbridge Hall Brewery’s multi-award winning Jaipur IPA.
As Google belately tries to keep its search results relevant, a number of alternatives are available, including the rather interesting Blekko. This new search engine allows you to narrow your search to lists of previously entered sites, labelled with what they call slashtags. With masses of poor cocktail websites out there, I’ve frequently been frustrated by Google searches.
Obviously there are different aims for searching the web. A completely open search will often be needed, for example when looking for some obscure information on a little known cocktail. However, the Blekko slashtag approach can be really handy when you want to weed out some of the poorer hits for more common search terms.
Try searching for Mai Tai in Google, and most of the top hits are for some pretty poor pages on this classic drink. Narrowing the search using my “/msp/cocktails” slashtag produces all the Mai Tai entries on my favourite 16 cocktail sites. Some I know, some I’d not seen before but best of all, no swamping of the results from the myriad of average cocktail web sites out there.
Over the New Year I came across Fentiman’s Tonic at a local farm shop. Despite being a fan of Fentiman’s for years, this was the first time I’d encountered their Tonic Water. Launched back in 2007 (alongside small bottle versions of their coke and ginger beer lines) Fentiman’s made similar statements to those from other alternative mixer producers. In short, the overly sweet, mass produced, corn fructose based mixers just don’t cut it when combined with quality spirits. Sounds like common sense, so I was keen to try it out.
The mouth is watering. Export strength Tanqueray and wedges of lime are at the ready. Let the G&T’s commence… Unfortunately it was a bit of a let down. Fentiman’s cut back on the Quinine and added Lemongrass to their Tonic. The resulting G&T doesn’t taste a lot like a G&T. The Lemongrass is pleasant but nearly obscures the weighty botanicals of the Gin (and this was with export Tanquer: no shrinking violet of the Gin family). With less Quinine than a typical tonic, the usual bite and character of the G&T is missing.
Like the other product’s in Fentiman’s line, this makes a quality soft drink to enjoy on its own. I love their classic Dandelion and Burdock or the spicy Ginger Beer on a hot summers day. But this really misses the target as the accompanient to a fine Gin.
I’m reluctant to draw conclusions from advertising material, but I wonder if the problem is a fundamental misunderstanding of this classic mixed drink. The first line of their poster reads “The gin and tonic is a drink with only two vital ingredients, the clue to which is in its name.” Of course as any discerning G&T drinker will know, a wedge of lime or lemon is the essential third ingredient. Oh ok, ice makes it 4 essentials. A great Gin and Tonic requires a balance between a Gin with character, a subtle Tonic, and a burst of citrus juice. Destroy that balance and the drink is dead.
Constraints can sometimes lead to innovation, and the best part of this Tiki cocktail can be credited to a snow storm. Not a typical Tiki situation, I grant you. With the UK’s weather taking a turn for the worse, getting out and stocking up on Lemons and Limes was out of the question. The only citrus fruits in the house were Tangerines but a Tiki drink was needed to momentarily escape the latest ice age gathering pace outside. Rum and Tangerine therefore became the natural starting point. A bit of experimentation resulted in the addition of a touch of Pineapple Juice and Passion Fruit syrup. A glance out of the window into the ongoing blizzard was the final inspiration required: an escape to warmer climes and a typically Tiki finish was needed. Float overproof Rum and garnish with half a spent Tangerine shell. The Anani Punch. Serve with lots of ice and excellent central heating.
- 2 shots of Appleton 8
- 1 shot of freshly squeezed Tangerine Juice
- 0.5 shots of freshly squeezed Pineapple Juice
- 0.5 shots of Passion Fruit Syrup
- Float a dash of overproof Rum
Shake with ice, serve over crushed ice in a rocks glass and garnish with half a spent Tangerine shell.
The Saturn is one of my favourite drinks from Jeff Berry‘s latest book on Tiki drinking: Beachbum Berry Remixed. Gin isn’t usually at the top of the list for a Tiki drink, but it works wonderfully with the Falernum and the array of other flavours in the mix. I’m amazed its been paid such little attention by the online Tiki community since Berry brought it back from its sixties origins. Although those who have blogged about the Saturn have been pretty complimentary!
Creator of the Saturn is Popo Galsini, one of the cocktail luminaries featured on MSPs new Cocktail Experts page. This is certainly a work in progress but we’ve now got a decent foundation to develop this into a useful reference resource for the site. I’m really keen to build Mix Shake and Pour with lots of cross referencing and links to all the best cocktail information out there on the web. The creators of all those fabulous drinks are obviously a key piece of the cocktail puzzle. So who is missing? Be they cocktail legends or influential bloggers, who do you think should be added to the list?