Category: Other Drinks

Tasting Talisker Port Ruighe in Skye

Tasting Talisker, Isle of Skye

A couple of weeks ago I went to the Isle of Skye in Scotland for the launch of Talisker Port Ruighe, the latest release from Talisker and a new permanent addition to the Scotch malt whisky’s portfolio.

The name, Port Ruighe, is a nod towards the Gaelic way of writing Portree, the location of the distillery on Skye, and the port casks that the whisky has been finished in. In essence, Talisker Port Ruighe is the Talisker 10 finished in casks that had previously contained port.

In the company of journalists from UK, France, Germany, Italy and elsewhere in Europe, we tasted both the Talisker Port Ruighe and Talisker Storm (another recent release).

While Talisker Storm is spicy, smoky and an obviously more potent version of Talisker 10, Talisker Port Ruighe was a softer, silkier and, for me, more elegant expression. The fruit is brought forward while the spice and peat is pulled back by the port cask finish which worked really rather well. It’s noticeably sweeter too but perhaps that doesn’t work so well for everyone.

We tried two other approaches to the whiskies – tasting with food and an blending exercise.

In the food session, we tried both Taliskers with food that picked out aspects of the whisky such as black pepper for the spice and strawberries for the fruit. While it highlighted what the blender, Maureen Robertson, had tried to achieve, it also helped to show how they might be paired to food, and desserts in particular.

In the second session, which is sadly not available to the public, we tried our own hand at blending. We were given three liquids (whiskies at various stages of ageing) which we had to blend by taste and by smell to try and achieve a mystery liquid. Let’s just say it’s significantly harder than it sounds and it already sounds pretty impossible.

The sessions and the trip itself was a great insight into how much of a skilled task blending whiskies is; it’s certainly hard not to be in awe by the end.

Read more about Skye and whisky on Culture Explorer

Read more about other cask finished options at Yahoo!

Here are a few snaps from Talisker:

Talisker had kindly hosted the trip to Skye.

The Perfect G&T

Gin Mare

There’s nothing more refreshing than a cool glass of G&T at the height of summer, but the simple drink is not always treated with the respect it deserves. A G&T is not just a G&T. Each gin has different characteristics, as does each tonic. Then there’s the garnishes to contend with. Preferences will vary from person to person, but finding a harmonious blend is like striking gold.

To my taste, The Hinds Head has one of the best combinations sorted. They do a fabulous G&T with my favourite gin – Gin Mare (pronounced mar-ray) – and perk it up with a floral tonic and some unusual garnishes.

Even on gloomy rain-filled Sundays, a taste of its heady blend of citrus and herbal aromatics takes me back to the roasting summers day when I first discovered it at the Hinds Head bar.

Here’s a guide to that ‘perfect’ G&T. It’s just a guide because, as with everything, it should be done to taste…

Key parts:
a tall glass
ice cubes
wedge of orange
sprig of rosemary
25ml Gin Mare
Fever Tree Mediterranean Tonic to top up

Fill your tall glass with lots of ice, bigger cubes will melt more slowly. Throw in your wedge of orange and sprig of rosemary. Pour over Gin Mare and top up with Fever Tree Mediterranean Tonic as desired. Enjoy.

(First seen on Taste of London blog)

Sake sommeliery at Harrods

sake sommelier at Harrods wine shop

Sake, that illusive Japanese drink which, despite its increasing popularity in restaurants and elsewhere, remains a bit of a mystery to the public.

For one, there is often misconceptions about what it is. Despite the fact that basic versions are now widely available in supermarkets, it is still often mistakenly called Japanese rice wine. In reality, the process of making sake is more like that of beer – the starch in rice must be converted to sugars before it can be fermented using yeast. And in Japan, the establishments which make sake are called breweries.

Then there is the matter of how to drink sake. Should you have it warm or cold? And how does this then affect that food you might have with it? After all, sake is reported to have completely different characteristics on the palate compared to the nose.

Luckily these, and other intricate matters, are covered in the first and only sake sommelier course in the UK.

sake sommelier at Harrods wine shop

Held in the private room of Harrod’s wine shop, the course is run by the Sake Sommelier Association and offers an introduction to the history of sake, its making and its characteristics. Although the course is only intended as an introduction, you do get a serious overview of everything. Particularly useful, perhaps, is the classification of sake – a very confusing matter when you realise there are names for every variation!

Theory aside, you will also get to sample a few sakes from different categories and at different temperatures – everything from super polished to slightly aged. The tasting is tutored and with specially designed glasses by Riedel as well as more traditional glassware so you leave with a great set of tasting notes and ideas on how to match particular sakes with food. And as you leave, you will receive a sake sommelier certificate too. Just think, a newly qualified sake sommelier in just one session.

(First seen on BespokeRSVP)

Is matcha the new superfood trend?

Lalani_-Co_organic_matcha-300x227I was recently invited to sample some matcha flavoured frozen yoghurt by the owners of Lalani & Co, a major importer of the Japanese green tea powder. It was introduced to me as the latest superfood trend to sweep the UK because it contains more antioxidants than regular green tea, is low in caffeine and also contains vitamins and minerals.

The truth is, I already knew about the frozen yoghurt and had seen matcha being sold at food festivals as far back as five years ago, and at specialist shops for even longer. But I wanted to learn more about the process of producing matcha from its importers: how it’s transformed from the tea leaves to the green powder form that it’s sold in and of course the traditional Japanese tea ceremony during which it is served.

Well, I learnt that the process is long and intricate with an output rate of just 30g of tea an hour. The high grade tea leaves are grown under the shade in order to concentrate the chlorophyll and amino acids in the leaves. The best leaves are then picked, de-veined and stone-milled between two granite slabs to produce the fine green powder. Because of the friction in the milling process, the production must be extremely slow in order to prevent the powder from burning.

matcha_cupcakes-224x300Traditionally, matcha is consumed as part of a long Japanese tea ceremony where hot water is whisked into the green tea powder using a bamboo brush. These days in the UK, it is readily available from specialist tea retailers in its powdered form for you to try at home. I was surprised to learn that my favourite coffee merchants, H.R. Higgins, have started stocking them too.

In fact, it’s widely available in drinks such as lattes and smoothies on the high street but is also often used to flavour iced desserts and chocolate. The likes of Modern Pantry and Bougie Macaron are using matcha in scones, meringues and macarons. It has even appeared as an ingredient on this year’s MasterChef.

While popularity of matcha has certainly grown considerably over the past few years, perhaps with the exception of drinks, its use has been primarily for flavour rather than its health benefits. But with matcha used as an ingredient in confectionery, the resulting product may not be healthy at all. In fact, any health benefits could be cancelled out altogether by other unhealthy ingredients.

So the question is, is matcha the new superfood trend or should we just recognise it as an “exotic new flavour”?

(First seen on Foodepedia)

The sensory cider experience of Magners Specials

Magners cider portfolio

After you’ve lived in the West Country for a while, you inevitably pick up the cider drinking habit and fall in love with it. The cider worship in this part of the country is contageous.

I remember when I first moved to Bristol for university, I knew almost nothing about cider except that I hated it. All my previous dalliances with cider had been as part of “snakebite” (lager, cider and blackcurrant) where it’s preferable that the blackcurrant flavours overpower everything else. In the West Country, I was only offered “cider and black” if I wanted to adulterate my drink.

Over the course of my degree, I learnt to love the drink and frequented The Coronation Tap for its extensive collection of ciders including the frozen Thatcher’s Ice Gold and the extra strong Exhibition cider. By the time I was leaving Bristol, it had become a drink of choice. Now whenever I spot ciders on my travels, especially the artisanal kind, I always raise a glass to my time at Bristol.

So I was curious to hear that Magners, the Irish cider giants, are launching a new range of ciders – an addition to their original, light and pear ciders. These new blended ciders are called Magners Specials and come in Pear and Ginger, Spiced Apple and Honey, and Spice Apple and Rhubarb.

While Magners are made in Ireland rather than the West Country, they are one of the biggest producers of cider in the UK. Their parent company also owns the likes of Bulmers (in Ireland), Gaymers, Blackthorn, Addlestones and more. I guess that means they know a thing or two about making ciders.

The tasting room at Magners cider tasting

I was invited to the basement bar of Dream Bags Jaguar Shoes to learn more about Magners ciders from Aoife Sheehan, an expert on the Magners Sensory Panel. She was part of the team which helped to develop the new ciders and has a PhD in Flavour Science – pretty swish.

On the night, Sheehan talked about the whole complex process of cider production and blending and then led us through a sensory experience of cider.

First we dabbed blue food colouring on our tongues to help count our taste buds and determine whether we’re a none-taster, taster or super-taster. This was followed by tasting spoonfuls of cinnamon sugar first while holding our noses, then without – try it at home, you’ll be surprised. Both of these little exercises were designed to show us that flavour isn’t just taste but also aroma.

Before we got into the cider though, we still had to taste different apple juices. Magners, we were told, is made from fresh apple juice rather than from concentrate. Finally, it was on to the most important part of the night – the cider tasting. Of course I was already familiar with Magners original and pear so was very excited to get into the new flavours. And I wasn’t disappointed.

The Pear and Ginger, Magners Pear cider blended with ginger, is described as “a lightly spiced cider which is fruity and warm and has a very refreshing taste on the palate”. While the Spiced Apple and Honey, Magners Original cider blended with honey, zesty orange peel and a touch of cinnamon, is “an elegant, smooth cider with refreshing hints of citrus”. And then there’s the Spiced Apple and Rhubarb, Magners Original cider blended with a light spice and rhubarb, which is “a distinct, subtly sweet cider with gentle cinnamon notes”.

Just like for Sheehan, it was very difficult for me to choose between them. Each had their own unique angle but my favourite was definitely the Spiced Apple and Honey. Its sweetness and force of intense flavours is both warming and refreshing at the same time – something I imaging could work both warm and cold.

On the way home, I considered the cider. How different these flavours are to the other ones on the market and what a way to adulterate the cider.

Below is a few snaps from the cider tasting:

Kirin pop-up Yatai at Dray Walk Gallery, Truman Brewery

A little while ago I was invited to the launch of the Kirin First Cut Short Film Competition.

That competition has now closed and a selection of finalists have been chosen with the winner yet to be decided. Between the 3rd and 8th of August, diners at the Kirin pop-up Yatai will be able to see and vote for their favourite finalist from the selection. The winner will then be announced at the 55th BFI London Short Film Festival, which starts from the 12th of October and runs until the 27th October.

The Yatai is created in conjunction with the head chefs of Yashin sushi and will be at the Dray Walk Gallery in East London. Visit to book your space.

Below is a selection of images from the press launch:

London’s Cocktail bars: An Aperitif

They say that cocktails are great lubricators of conversation and amazing catalysts for fun times. True, but they should do all that and more. Cocktails should inspire you. And, when drinking fabulous cocktails, one should expect the venue to be as interesting as the cocktail itself. Why would you want to sip an outstanding drink somewhere that’s duller than the patina on a Bronze Age statuette? It would be like drinking Château Latour 1982 with your blueberry pancakes in a shed-like Texan diner: utterly unthinkable.

69 Colebrooke Row

So, here are some suggestions for suitable venues in which to imbibe a cocktail or three. Let’s start with something gentle to ease you in.

I say gentle but it’s really quite dramatic. Good Godfrey’s at the Waldorf is the epitome of the glamorous hotel bar with a West End twist. In fact, it’s positively theatrical. Nestled among the cream of the theatrical crop, the bar screams opulence with its original, listed panelling and illuminated marble and chrome fixtures. It’s named after Howard Godfrey, the bandleader of the ‘Waldorfians’ house band back in the 1920s – and everything else is inspired by drama.

Take Very Very Pretty; the name is a reference to the only stipulation of the ‘Gaiety Girls’, performers at the neighbouring Gaiety Theatre, who didn’t require any particular skills. And Thé Dansant, inspired by the tea dances at the Waldorf’s Palm Court. Then there’s the Hot Gin Punch and the Astor Hip Flask, which are served up in a giant teapot and a hip flask respectively. All, rest assured, are expertly created by the award-winning Nelson Bernardes.

Good Godfrey barElsewhere on our map there is something thoroughly modern. Not the Millie but The Folly, a garden-themed venue with multiple bars and endless space for eating and drinking. It’s probably the biggest venue within the Square Mile and it could be the greenest place in EC3 too with its Norwegian Spruce tree trunk at the bar, the plant pot lighting over the restaurant and the potted plants in the deli-come-bar. You can pick up a gardening kit with your customised cocktail or a bunch of flowers with your sandwiches. And that’s just upstairs; there’s another whole level downstairs with even more subtly different pockets of microcosms.

Those conscious of alcohol calories will be pleased to hear that there’s a range of ‘skinnies’ to choose from, complete with calorie count to help you make an Informed Decision. The Watermelon and Raspberry Ripple is simply bursting with health, but the Ziggy is the one that’s been created by Ezekiel Maledon at The Folly – call it the house special. If you want something outrageously left-field though, there’s always the Thai Tini – it comes with a prawn.

Speaking of left-field, the London Cocktail Club has a courageous cocktail list with a décor to match. Where else can you enjoy a Bacon and Egg Coupet under spidery glow lights? The LCC is tucked away in a Goodge Street cellar space, but there’s also a sister venue on Great Newport Street called The Covent Garden Cocktail Club (which was formerly, and confusingly, also called the London Cocktail Club). Although each venue has its own unique character, both follow “that classic LCC/CGCC theme”. I’m still trying to work out what that is exactly but their outrageous wall paper and extensive cocktail list simply intoxicate me; the Brixton Riot (peach, cranberry and lychee liqueur, flamed with Wray & Nephew overproof rum) is a real flaming eye opener.

It seems that every other cocktail here comes with a helping of food for garnishing (bacon, bread, shortbread, ice cream and so on), but if you did fancy something a bit more substantial, the bar snacks are Raymond Blanc-approved. That is, the LCC co-owners JJ Goodman and James Hopkins were the winners of the third series of the BBC’s The Restaurant and have since been working with Raymond and other notables to create these unexpected cocktail clubs.

The Folly BarIf the upstairs lounge is more your thing then you might enjoy Tempo, the Curzon Street Italian. It speaks Mayfair in volumes in the restaurant downstairs but the first floor bar is a whole different Regency period, all decked out in original Rococo Revival panelling and mouldings. The plush and contemporary seating will leave you in no doubt over the modernity of your cocktail. The Tempo Punch isn’t bad and the Basil Grande adds something extra to your strawberry purée – ground black pepper and basil to be precise – but there is one cocktail that defines this venue: the Mayfair Gem.

There’s a gem in the East End too. When you walk down Rivington Street in search of the double C of Callooh Callay, you’ll probably wonder what could possibly entice anyone not wearing brogues, skinny jeans and an oversized t-shirt with safety-pinned sleeves to tackle this part of town. It’s in the heart of Shoreditch with The 100 Club in one direction and some ‘invitation by word-of-mouth only’ abandoned warehouse rave in the other. But when you brush past the bouncers, doing your best to refrain from attempting a secret nod, and push through the heavy double doors, it’s all shirts and frocks inside.

The first room will be so dark that you’ll barely be able to read their outlandish menus but even if you could, you won’t be sure what you’re going to get. What does violet liqueur taste like anyway? Beets Me! is the thing to have either in the back room (much brighter) or upstairs in the Jub Jub bar (the seats are velvety). Of course, if you are a member of the Jub Jub bar – and that helps if you hope to get into Callooh Callay when it’s really busy – you could always order something on the Jub Jub menu or go off-piste.

The Botanist BarAfter all the dimly lit venues you will need The Botanist on Sloane Square. The quirky ‘nature’ theme here is subtle and reminiscent of sunny days out in Kew Gardens except, instead of the sun, there’s floor-to-ceiling glass to make the most of that natural light streaming in from the similarly proportioned windows, and the plants engraving the walls give all the air of botany without any of the hassle of hayfever.

Of course, that is not to say that it doesn’t offer the usual trappings of Sloane Square. After all, more than a few young Royals have been spotted propping up the bar.

That fact has definitely rubbed off a little on the cocktail menu, with the suggestively named Indigo Royale and God Save the Quince. I’m partial to a little Tea House Martini myself, but I hear the non-alcoholic (gasp!) Boost is also a popular choice. Should you happen to find yourself ravenous and the attractive clientèle not quite sating your hunger, there’s always the option of eating from the bar menu or popping next door into the restaurant.

Similarly Royal-inclined is Awana, down the road. The gourmet Malaysian restaurant has a bijoux alcove opposite a well-furnished bar looking out onto Sloane Avenue. If you’re not a member, this is the perfect place to spot who’s stumbling in and out of Bart’s next door while sipping on cocktails and enjoying a satay something. (I hear Prince Harry has been seen deep in conversation with a ‘mystery caller’.) The house classic is Havana-Banana-Awana but if that’s a bit of mouthful, go for Blooming Hibiscus.

For something that’s a bit more grown up, maybe even old fashioned, try the bar at The Zetter Townhouse (ZTH for those down with acronyms). It’s the latest venture of Tony Conigliaro, the man behind the now infamous and award-winning bar with no name at 69 Colebrooke Row, in collaboration with The Zetter. Inside is a boudoir of dramatic nick-nacks including taxidermy and old paintings. The dolled-up cat is a bit disconcerting and you wouldn’t want to get into a boxing match with the kangaroo on your way to the bedrooms after one too many, but the staff have the most adorable little outfits; you’d wish they were minuscule enough to pop into your pocket and take home. Figurines should definitely be the next thing on their agenda.

Tony Conigliaro and mixologistThe Master at Arms is the drink created for ZTH, which will be adored by all port lovers, but the Harvard is just that bit more aromatic. If you discover their games room with the ping pong table, you will almost certainly need reinforcements. The food at ZTH is provided by Bruno Loubet, chef/patron of Bistro Bruno Loubet just across the square. In fact, you can probably spot him dashing between the two once in a while. The charcuterie platter is particularly good, but just make sure you order plenty of bread.

Of course if you don’t mind venturing further afield, the bar with no name comes highly recommended, by everyone. In the lab above 69 Colebrooke Row, Tony concocts some of the most interesting cocktails around. With mini distillation devices and water baths to play with, there’s certainly a lot of experimenting going on. There’s even a Manhattan up there that’s five years in the making. The menu is completely different from ZTH, of course. If it wasn’t so seasonal I could drink the Rhubarb and Hibiscus Bellini forever, but for now there’s a Lipstick Rose and a Liquorice Whisky Sour to keep me company.

Now that you have a handful of recommendations to take you through at least a week and half, I hope, go forth and explore. But please, report back interesting findings. And do drink responsibly; fabulous cocktails aren’t made for binging, you know.

Good Godfrey’s, The Waldorf Hilton, Aldwych, WC2B 4DD. Tel. 020 7836 2400. Website.

The Folly, 41 Gracechurch St, EC3V 0BT. Tel. 0845 468 0102. Website.

The London Cocktail Club, 61 Goodge St, W1T 1TL. Tel. 020 7580 1960. Website.

The Covent Garden Cocktail Club, 6-7 Great Newport Street, WC2H 7JA. Tel. 020 7836 9533. Website.

Tempo,  54 Curzon Street, W1J 8PG. Tel. 020 7629 2742. Website.

Callooh Callay, 65 Rivington Street,  EC2A 3AY. Tel. 020 7739 4781. Website.

The Botanist, 7 Sloane Square, SW1W 8EE. Tel. 020 7730 0077. Website.

Awana, 85 Sloane Avenue, SW3 3DX. Tel. 020 7584 8880. Website.

The Zetter Townhouse, 49-50 St John’s Square, EC1V 4JJ. Tel. 020 7324 4545. Website.

69 Colebrooke Row (the bar with no name),  N1 8AA. Tel: 07540 528 593. Website.

(First seen on The Arbuturian)

Whisky and more at 69 Colebrooke Row

Pouring whiskyI was recently invited to sample some fine Scotch whiskies at 69 Colebrooke Row, where many a delightful cocktail had been consumed in the past. It’s the sort of bijou venue where there’s just enough light to cast a pleasing glow over everything, and everyone. And, if you know someone who knows someone, you can even take a tour in the lab upstairs where the possibilities are simply endless.

The whisky was a flight of seven single malts from Diageo‘s ever expanding portfolio. The comparative tasting was led by Dr. Nick Morgan, Scotch Knowledge and Heritage Director at Diageo, with the aim of exploring the subtle nuances between different flavour profiles – from delicate to smoky, and light to rich.

Dr Nick Morgan from DiageoWe started the tasting with the Glenkinchie 12 yo, the lightest and most delicate of the seven. Created at one of the few remaining Lowland distilleries, the Glenkinchie 12 yo is often served as an aperitif in France because of its lightness. It’s also quite malty and very easy to drink – a very good way to start off the flight.

The second whisky, while still light, was decidedly more smoky – the Dalwhinnie 15 yo. In sharp contrast to the Glenkinchie, the Dalwhinnie was created in one of the highest distilleries in Scotland. It is the only distillery allowed to use water from Lochan an Doire Uaine, part of what goes into creating its uniquely clean taste.

Whisky flavour mapThe next two, Cragganmore 12 yo and Oban 14 yo, were not too dissimilar. Both were fairly rich with fruity and honeyed notes. However, the Cragganmore 12 yo was perhaps a little more smoky with hints of sandalwood and cigars. The Oban 14 yo, on the other hand, had a distinctive brininess – a reflection of its seaside distillery location.

Then we graduated on to a heavily smoky Talisker 10 yo. It’s almost overpowering until you mellow it out with a drop or two of water, which I know some will be horrified at but it really does help to bring out the flavours. In this whisky you would expect to find that rich sweetness of dried fruit as well as a slight pepperiness.

The last two we sampled were both from Lagavulin, the 16 yo and the Distiller’s Edition. Created on the Isle of Islay from heavily peated barley and mineral water, both are smoky and complex due to the prolonged distillation process. The 16 yo was very rounded with a profile that reminded me of sweet smoked paprika. I imagine it would make a very good BBQ rub, that is, if you’re not too precious about using sipping whisky in cooking. The Distiller’s Edition, while still smoky, was a lot more mellow having been aged in Pedro Ximinez casks as well as the American Oak casks.

Lagavulin liquorice whisky sourThat concludes the flight of whiskies but the evening doesn’t stop there. We also tried the Lagavulin 16 yo with a selection of blue cheeses – Gorgonzola Piccante, Roquefort and Valdeón; and the Distiller’s Edition with chocolates from Paul A Young – 64% Dominican Republic, Sea Salted Caramel truffle and Port and Stilton truffle. I must say I wasn’t a big fan of the blue cheeses but the chocolates, especially the Sea Salted Caramel, were absolutely divine.

And as it was 69 Colebrooke Row, it wouldn’t be right to end the evening without a couple of cocktails. The Sterling Soda was the Lagavulin 16 yo shaken with lemon juice, barley water and vanilla cream soda then served in a tall Collins glass. The Lagavulin Liquorice Whisky Sour was the Lagavulin 16 yo shaken with lemon juice and liquorice syrup served in a coupette. Paul A Young has also created a special Lagavulin Liquorice Whisky Sour chocolate, with a gorgeous shimmery finish, to accompany the drink. And a very fine match it was too.

That just leaves enough room for one last cocktail before my long journey home, a rhubarb and hibiscus Bellini that got me savouring for hours. I suppose that explains why I am always the last to leave – the savouring.

(First seen on Foodepedia)

Kirin First Cut

Kirin Ichiban

Last night I was invited to an event at Shoreditch Studios. It’s the sort of event where there’s high ceilings in a loft studio space and trendy Shoreditch types. The event in question was the launch of ‘Kirin First Cut’ Short Film Competition.

Kirin Ichiban, a light beer, was available on draught and in bottles. Kirin is a Japanese beer brand, although Wells & Young’s Brewing Company produces it in the UK; and Ichiban because the beer is made via the Ichiban Shibori process, which literally translates to ‘first press’. This means that the ingredients are used only once in the brewing process.

It might seem random for a beer to create a short film competition but actually Kirin sponsors a number of arts, fashion and design projects including BALTIC, a contemporary arts centre in Gateshead. For the Kirin First Cut competition they are looking for shorts, made in any format, based on the theme of ‘First Press’. This can be literal or metaphoric. There will be prizes of course, ranging from a year’s supply of Kirin Ichiban to £3,000 and premiers at various short film festivals.

Metcalfes Skinny Topcorn Wasabi Popcorn

The event had a nice tie in with food as well. Aside from the wasabi nuts and assorted snacks available with the beer, there was also sushi and kushiage – deep-fried skewers of food. In fact kushiage was precisely the sort of food you might find at the Kirin Ichiban pop-up Yatai, which will open at a secret East London location in August 2011, where shorts from the competition will be shown.

The entertainment of the evening was traditional music (shamisen and drums) plus Go, origami and Kanji stands. I think perhaps my favourite part of the evening was the short film screenings. We were given Wasabi flavoured popcorn and shown a series of shorts from Future Shorts. There were quite a few different genres and it reminded me how much I enjoyed short films. I went to a lot of screenings but I think started with this one:

If you’re interested in making and submitting a short, visit You can also book a table for the pop-up Yatai at the website.

Making Japanese cocktails at Watatsumi

Watatsumi is at 7 Northumberland Avenue Trafalgar Square London WC2N 5BY (this restaurant is now closed)

Watatsumi tables

Have you been to Watatsumi? It’s a bit fishy in there.

No, not in that “there’s something suspicious going on” sort of way but rather, they’re a bit fish obsessed.

You see I was recently invited to an evening of cocktail making at Watatsumi, the high-end Japanese restaurant at The Club Quarters Hotel. It was a great opportunity to hone my cocktail making skills, try a few drinks inspired by Japanese food and sample some of the seafood on their extensive menu.

The informal masterclass was held at the bar on a quiet Tuesday evening. You knew it was informal because there were guests sitting on the other end of the bar listening in – but that’s great because it means they’re not afraid to show off their skills. Unfortunately the same couldn’t be said for the participants – I know I made more than a few mistakes! But more on that later.

We started off with a Momiji – a champagne cocktail made with Midori, rose liqueur, Campari, Momiji (a spicy vegetable paste made with daikon) and of course champagne. One lucky volunteer, Tania, went behind the bar to start us off.

First, you shake up 15ml of the Midori, rose liqueur and Campari with half a bar-spoon of Momiji in an ice filled cocktail shaker. Then, after double straining into a champagne flute, you top up the glass with champagne. To create a tiered effect, you need to pour in the champagne gently and it’s best achieved with a swizzle stick that has a perpendicular base. To finish, slip in a few shreds of cucumber and daikon. Et voilà, a champagne cocktail with an unexpected kick. We were having some salmon maki rolls and that kick matched rather well with the wasabi.

I started browsing through the drinks menu to find out exactly what we were drinking and to see what else was available. But alas, all the cocktails we were making were new additions to the menu so I couldn’t find them in print, yet. But I did spot shoals of fish swimming happily around the sake list and darting between the pages to the wines.

The second cocktail of the evening was a Shiso martini. We were introduced to another new ingredient – the Shiso leaf. It’s like a mint but bigger, thinner and more delicate in aroma. Unfortunately that also makes transportation and storage a nightmare and consequently this means a reflection in the price.

For this second cocktail, Amy was the volunteer. And to make it, you measure out 50ml of Disaronno, 20ml of yuzu juice and 25ml of sake into an ice filled cocktail shaker. If you haven’t come across yuzu before, it’s an aromatic citrus fruit found in Asia that tastes like a cross between orange, grapefruit and lemon. Then you take two Shiso leaves and slap them in the palm of your hand to bruise them slightly, thereby releasing their aroma, before adding them into the cocktail shaker as well. Give the whole thing a good shake before double straining the contents into a martini glass. It’s very refreshing with the calamari.

Watatsumi fish lights

I tried to avoid being chosen for the final cocktail by admiring the lights. And it was very impressive too – a school of fish swimming around the light casting fish shadows across the room and when it’s quiet enough, create a wind chime effect. But it was no use. The final cocktail of the evening was made by yours truly and it was a Japanese mojito.

Having had many a mojitos in my time, I was off trying to add double shots of rum to my glass. Then of course I spilled the sake everywhere. In reality however, you should be muddling four Shiso leaves with some sugar, 20ml yuzu juice, 25ml rum, and 50ml sake in a glass filled with crushed ice. Top with more ice after the muddling and a splash of Chambord to serve. Mine was a little strong but that’s ok, it tasted pretty good.

Cocktails made, drinks had and dinner consumed – it was time to head off. But not before one last one for the road – a shot of lychee liqueur with ice cream covered in glutinous rice. Hic.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...