Four Roses Bourbon

Dec 23, 11 Four Roses Bourbon

Posted by in Spirits

Manhattan’s are one of, if not my favourite, cocktail. I love the warm feeling that starts in my belly and spreads through my body after the first sip of  a perfect Manhattan on the rocks. Some may prefer Manhattans straight up but I like’em on ice because otherwise, I drink them way too fast. There are two types of bourbon, Kentucky and Tennessee but most comes from Kentucky. Although Maker’s is my favourite, I found myself at a tasting for Four Roses Kentucky Bourbon in The Grosvenor Hotel at Victoria Station, the other night out of curiosity to see how other bourbons stack up. I learned a bit as well. Bourbon comes only from the U.S. and was designated a national spirit in May 1964. As such, it is one of the most strictly regulated spirits in the world, the thinking being, that if it represents the US, only a top quality product should be produced. There are two basic rules that all bourbons have to follow: 1. they have to be made with grain and 2. they shouldn’t  be distilled to too high an alcohol content. Bourbon was almost lost because of Prohibition but thanks to the belief that whiskey had medicinal purposes, a few distilleries were allowed to stay open, Four Roses being one of them. As a matter of fact, the distillery has copies of prescriptions written out by doctors for “medicinal whiskey” from the 1920’s. Four Roses was founded in 1888 and has had a long and chequered history. It hit rock bottom when it was owned by Seagrams which produced a lot of minimal bourbon and the reputation of Four Roses was in the toilet. Happily, in the 90’s it was bought by Kirin who set about to restore Four Roses as a quality bourbon. We compared the tasted all the Four Roses Yellow Label, Four Roses small batch and Four Roses Single Barrel. One common theme they all had was a spicy nose, each becoming  more intense in...

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Bar 45 in Park Lane – cocktails and posh bar nosh

Dec 02, 11 Bar 45 in Park Lane – cocktails and posh bar nosh

Posted by in Hotels and Spas, Spirits, wine bars

I, for one, am very pleased with this trend of chic cocktail bars in London. For some reason, cocktail bars seem to have taken off in the finer hotels of London.  As cocktails originated in America, it’s not too surprising it’s in the luxury hotels (all those trans-Atlantic businesspeople) and it’s great to see them getting their fair dues on this side of the pond. I was invited to sample the wares of the new Bar 45, part of Wolfgang Puck’s restaurant Cut, at the 45 Park Lane Hotel. As it’s Puck’s restaurant, the bar snack menu, called Rough Cuts, bears the influence of Puck’s Southern California stylings with Kobe beef sliders and tuna tartare “tacos”.  Both of which were fantastic, the cute little kobe sliders so full of beefy goodness and the tuna tartare had to be one of the silkiest tartares I’ve had in a long time. As for the cocktails, they have a varied choice, grouped under the spirit being used and with some fanciful ingredients. Ranging from jalapenos for the Dragon’s Fire tequila based cocktail to Japanese Umebosi plums for the Umami Cocktail. I didn’t order it as I wasn’t feeling very umami-ish that evening but perhaps next time. I did order Pepino’s Revenge which despite being made with tequila and lime bore no resemblance whatsoever to a margarita. It was probably the basil and Japanese cucumber that threw me off. I love basil and this was just such a yummy cocktail, I felt like I was swimming in basil, a good thing if you like basil. Of course, I ordered the obligatory Manhattan. I have to say, London’s cocktailers have vastly improved their Manhattan offerings and it’s rare that I have to send a Manhattan back nowadays. Bar 45’s was delish, made with Maker’s Mark and on the rocks, just the way I like it. The bar is not just cocktails, they also serve the wines from the restaurant list. The Head Sommelier Vanessa Cinti  is Italian but she...

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Cocktails in Chiswick

Sep 17, 11 Cocktails in Chiswick

Posted by in Italy, Lifestyle, restaurants, Spirits

London recently had a week dedicated to cocktails and who doesn’t like a well mixed cocktail? I’ve visited a few cocktail bars in London and the best seem to be located centrally but if you’re one of the lucky ones who live in or near Chiswick, you’ve got a gem of a cocktail bar/restaurant on your doorstep. Charlotte’s Bistro (little sister to Charlotte’s Place in Ealing) of Chiswick with it’s dark wood and modern glass and steel frontage just looks like a great place to order a martini or two. To get to the restaurant you have to pass through the small bar up front but everyone is so friendly on entering that it’s hard not to stop and have a drink before carrying on up the stairs to the dining room. Laura Marnich (ex-Sketch) is the Head Bartender and she works closely with the Head Chef to come up with unique cocktails. Why would the  Bar work with the kitchen? Because Laura likes to create with cocktails with a twist: Fennel & bergamot martinis, Peach & Basil KT Blossom martini and Cherry Meringue sour  with frothed egg whites, just some of the concoctions the bar and kitchen have come up with over the past year. I tried all of them and they all surprised me. I must say, I was a bit sceptical about fennel and bergamot but the combination was intoxicating (figuratively and literally). As a matter of fact, I think I drank most of my companions – ooops! Laura also does traditional cocktails and the Manhattan she whipped up passed my very strict Manhattan taste test despite the fact it was served straight up at first, they even had their own marinated cherries. Laura likes to change the menu seasonally, working with whatever fresh ingredients are available. Currently they are just finishing up summer and I can’t wait to see what she devises for Autumn. Prices? Well, unlike Central London, prices here are run between £7.50 and £9.50 and you definitely...

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Falanghina & Auchentoshan for a Shacklewell Night

Sep 05, 11 Falanghina & Auchentoshan for a Shacklewell Night

Posted by in Food and Wine, Italy, Spirits

Walking up Kingsland Road and then merging onto Stoke Newington Street, I was wondering if I would ever find the venue for Shacklewell Nights’ latest dinner. Past rows of closed shops with the metal shutters locked tightly, Turkish grocers and off-licences, I spied a hipster with a clipboard in the battered open doorway of what seemed to be a long closed establishment. This had to be it. And it was. After making my way past the entry room, it opened up into a (covered) still surviving Victorian street, (awesome!) complete with dwellings on both sides of the street, one serving as an open kitchen. Aperitifs and dinner was served in Ruby House, which was across the street from the kitchen, and is set over 5 floors of a Victorian townhouse, with plenty of retro furnishings and faded grandeur.  The entire venue is known as MC Motors and is very shabby chic. Auchentoshan was one of the sponsors and we got plenty of single malt whiskey cocktails before setting down to dinner. Shacklewell were serving roast chicken and I was asked by the organizers to recommend a red and white wine with dinner. I chose the 2010 Terradora Falanghina to go with the chicken. Falanghina is one of the easier to pronounce Italian varietals, coming from the slopes of Vesuvius, it is one of favourite white wines. Falanghina is a wine made for food, full of minerality but having good structure and plenty of apple, quince and citrus notes. It is rather round on the palate but not oily more like a substantial, elegantly textured white wine and miles better then any pinot grigio. A good match with the roast chicken, I enjoyed it with the starter of langoustine as well, the wine’s citrusy character coming to the forefront. In the middle of dinner, we were escorted, table by table, to a circa 1930’s decorated basement bar to sample Auchentoshan whiskey and learn a bit about the history of the whiskey. Luckily, we weren’t left...

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Lashings of Rum at the Worship St. Whistling Shop

Aug 27, 11 Lashings of Rum at the Worship St. Whistling Shop

Posted by in Spirits

The History of Rum. Could be interesting in the right hands. At the Worship St Whistling Shop bar it was one of the most fun and informative evenings I’ve had out drinking in quite awhile. And that’s saying something. Tristan Stephenson was our genial host/narrator and led us through the dark Victorian style bar to The Emporium, a small room in the back of the bar to begin our rum experience. Once seated on benches around 3 sides of a table, the lights darkened and the show began. I’m not going to give too much away but the show encompasses a sight, sound, smell, taste and audio tour through the highlights of rum, from Colonial America to Havana and beyond. The bar bills it as a “fairground ride of cocktail imbibation” (I’m pretty sure they made that last word up) and that sums it up quite neatly. There were plenty of surprises and Tristan has teamed up with Heston Blumenthal’s Experimental Kitchen to come up with some surprising food combinations and textures to go along with our rum libations. The History of Rum is the first of these cocktail experiences and will be running for the next three months. They’re busy planning the next experience, although Tristan wouldn’t tell us what it is just yet. Ideal for a night out with friends, the bar is currently only taking bookings for groups of 5-8 but are considering opening up the show to couples bookings. I wouldn’t worry if you don’t know the other couples when you start the evening, by the end, you’ll all be good friends over the generous and numerous cocktails poured throughout the two hour show. For more information and to make a reservation, check the website: Worship Street Whistling Shop, The Emporium. Fantastically fun night out and I even learned a thing or two about rum. Share this:TwitterFacebookLinkedInPocketRedditGoogleTumblrEmailPrintPinterestLike this:Like...

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Afternoon tea and gin in Henley

Aug 26, 11 Afternoon tea and gin in Henley

Posted by in Spirits

Champagne and a boat ride down the Thames. Then High Tea and Gin. Perfect. If only we lived in a sunnier clime. As it was, we were greeted with torrential rain when we arrived at the Hotel du Vin in Henley. But not to worry, rather then have champagne on a boat, we were warmly seated on the leather banquettes of their lounge, daintily sipping away. Who needs a boat ride, anyway? 😉 The hotel more then made up for the rather trad English summer weather with a fantastic welcome. The Assistant Sommelier, Aranka Komjati came out and gave us a short tutorial on the house champagne. Lombard & C0, which was founded in 1925,  supply the HdV with their champagne. A light, fresh and fruity wine, plenty of green apple, lemon and lime on the nose and palate and the cutest little bubbles. I don’t know why but bubbles always make me happy and the ones in this champagne were particularly playful.  Afterwards, we headed into the bistro for afternoon tea. Tiered serving platters instantly appeared laden with finger sandwiches, brownies, cakes and, my favourite, scones with CLOTTED CREAM. I adore clotted cream although my arteries probably are against it, along with fresh strawberry jam. Heaven. Served alongside all those lovely pastries were loose leaf tea in charming blue and white china. After we’d had our fill of tea it was time for a quick look around the hotel. Originally, we were supposed to have our gin tasting on the “sun-drenched deck” of one of the master suites. We got to see the 2 floor suite and the now rain-drenched deck which had some specatular views of the Thames and the surrounding hills.  I should mention that the deck has it’s own personal bathtub so you can sip your favourite libation while having a good long soak.  Not to worry, there was also another giant bathtub in the second floor bathroom. Back in the bistro and time for gin. Not any old gin...

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