KetelOne Bloody Mary Trail

Ketel One Citroen and Square Meal set the month of May as the month to find the best bloody mary in London. I got a little cheque book in the mail which entitled me to two free bloody mary’s at 10 bars around Shoreditch/Old Street. The criteria was pretty easy, rate them on  the cocktail and also on the experience. I’ve never really thought much of bloody mary’s, somebody asked me if it wasn’t a drink you had after the night before. Which is pretty much what I always thought but I was game. My willing volunteer, Eatlikeagirl, tagged along for some of my bloody mary adventure. 3 of the bars didn’t even try! I mean come on, pouring a tomatoey conconction over ice and throwing in a slug of vodka is not going to get you the crown of best bloody mary. Special odious condemnation goes to The Chill Bar in Brick Lane. Sticky concrete floors, dank smell of spilled beer, bright lights and bored staff did not make for a welcoming experience. And terrible bloody marys, full of pepper pieces, it’s only saving “grace”, it was strong. Let’s put that horrible experience behind us and get on to my top 3. Many of the bars also served a little snack to go along with drink and some but not all my faves served food with it. Spot number 3 goes to Pinchito Tapas near Old St. What I liked about their ‘mary was they kept true to their Spanish roots and added a shot of sherry along with the more exotic tapa of pineapple blue cheese jelly served alongside it. Talk about an umami explosion! Whew! That was some good stuff.Cool venue, too. No. 2 goes to the Rivington Grill. A light and tasty concoction, full of horseradish but a good citrus balance. It was surprisingly light bodied but still packed a punch. Extra points for actually serving it with a stalk of celery. And a great big slab of welsh rarebit....

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BobBobRicard Vintage Vodka tasting

After a vintage vodka tasting this is how you might think you would see the world….. But in reality, it was nothing of the sort. To Russians, drinking is about being social not about getting totally shitfaced. Or so our host, Russian Leonid Shutov would like me and my fellow diners to believe as we got down to eating Russian appetizers (zakusi in Russian) and drinking vintage vodka in his lush, gorgeous, diner deluxe as he likes to call it,  in the heart of Soho, BobBobRicard. Vodka is a palate cleanser to Russians, something that shouldn’t merge with the food but according to Leonid, it should be viewed as  a “highlighter” to each dish, bringing out the flavours. For this reason, good vodka is as refined or distilled as many times as possible so that you can enjoy the food and not be encumbered with an alcoholic taste or burn. Leonid told us that 80% of alcohol is absorbed within 15 seconds of drinking so a small shot is all you really need to enjoy the peak of an alcoholic hit, that nice feeling that starts in your belly and spreads throughout your body.  If you can taste the alcohol in vodka, you’re drinking the cheap stuff. Vodka should be chilled down to -18 degrees and then downed neatly as quickly as possible. A big bite of food, followed by a shot. And so on and so forth. We were served, I would estimate 20ml of vodka in small crystal shot glasses. I was a bit hesitant at the idea of downing shots of vodkas but really, with vodka of such quality, there is no need to worry. Of the vodka’s we had, the deeply chilled Kaufmann Vintage vodka 2003 (retail £250) stands out in my mind. The super premium Kauffman is only made every few years and only from Russian wheat in what is deemed to be exceptional wheat growing years. The Kauffman vodkas are distilled 16 times and a silver thread, which...

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Maker’s Mark + the Machine hitting Londontown

Maker’s Mark is my first bourbon love. Extremely smooth with a faint chocolaty finish, I’ve even made the pilgrimage to Loretto, KY, to visit the distillery and see where it all begins. It’s a lovely place with a brook running through it, which is where they get the water to make the bourbon and everything is done by hand, truly hand-crafted bourbons. They actually do hand-dip each bottle in wax to seal it before being sent off. I’ve even done it myself and have my souvenir bottle up in my room to prove it. I’ve seen Maker’s in the finer establishments around London and now they are making a big push to get everyone to enjoy their fine Kentucky bourbon. Maker’s + the Machine are going to hitting London this week with their Maker’s vending machines. Yes, vending machines, very useful invention for those on the go. Chips, candy, soda pop,porn,eggs,canned bread, live bait. Even (ewwww!) used panties-but that was only in Japan and has thankfully been discontinued. And now, here in London, we’re getting our very own Maker’s Mark Kentucky Bourbon vending machines in the City and around Shoreditch/Liverpool St. the 26,27 and 29th of May. A brilliant idea if ever there was one. Maker’s Mark are setting up 3 vending machines around the Capital this week to dispense such bourbon-esque delights as Maker’s and ginger, Maker’s and appletizer and Maker’s on the rocks. You’re probably thinking, “Ok, canned Maker’s Mark cocktails – been there done that.”  And you’d be wrong. What those wily Kentuckians have done is come up with a vending machine complete with bartender inside, making those Maker’s cocktails as fresh as can be. So keep an eye out for those vending machines around East London. You can also follow them on Twitter@makersmachine where they will be revealing the third and final vending machine location as well as opportunities for fellow redheads to win a bottle of Maker’s Mark by posting a Twit-pic of themselves at the Makers Machine, or a bottle for anyone who guesses the final location before...

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Absinthe, how NOT to drink it-video

Absinthe. Isn’t that the stuff that caused Van Gogh to cut off his ear? Poor absinthe is actually the victim of a smear campaign begun by temperance advocates in the 1880’s and it has never fully recovered. Absinthe doesn’t cause hallucinations as the popular misconception goes, rather, it is thought that the absinthe of the 1800’s was made with poisonous chemicals to give it it’s famous greenish hue, or green fairy as it was often called, which may have caused those absinthe drinkers to think that sunflowers were talking to them or whatever it was they imagined. Absinthe’s allure was further deepened by it’s association with bohemian artists and writers of the late 1800’s to early 20th century and their belief that it heightened their artistic sensibilities. It might also have something to do with the high alcohol content, clocking in at between 50 -75% alcohol, it’s no wonder it has to be diluted with water and sugar. Lately, absinthe is enjoying a revival and I came across an organic absinthe at the recent London Real Food Fest. Interestingly, absinthe was never banned in the UK because it never gained popularity here, unlike the Continent where at one point, over 36 million litres  a year were being consumed by the French alone. Biosinthe is made with all organically certified herbs as well as being distilled from organic wine. The distillery is situated in the Rhineland-Palatinate and made by Master Distiller, Fedor Back. Biosinthe is 60% proof, pretty potent stuff. If you want a quick lesson in how to prepare absinthe and how NOT to drink it, check out the video. I survived and no, sadly, no sunflowers talked to me on the way home…. Share this:TwitterFacebookLinkedInPocketRedditGoogleTumblrEmailPrintPinterestLike this:Like...

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A trip round Courvoisier’s Architectural Punchbowl

Bompass & Parr have done it again. Food architects  and jellymongers extra-ordinaire, B&P have teamed up with Courvoisier for the Architectual Punchbowl. Inspired by Admiral Edward Russell, who created a punchbowl back in 1694 that you could row across, Bompass & Parr have created their very own punchbowl using over a tonne of Courvoisier Exclusif (created specifically for mixing in cocktails) to slake the thirst of over 25,000 people. The theme was shabby chic, peeling wallpaper, half finished rooms, all hidden by a plastic red curtain. Behind the curtain wafted the strains of classical music and once in, there was the lake attended by either very skinny Oompa-Loompas or very young Good Humor Men, not sure which. Made my way to punchbowl side where I was offered the winning punchbowl Courvoisier entry by Joe McCanta of Saf. Afterwards, I unsteadily made my way to the quayside and had a quick float around the bowl. Despite my misgivings, I didn’t fall in! Afterwards we repaired to the bar for our choice of Courvoisier cocktails. We had the Cognito, Courvoisier’s take on the mojito. Great fun and it’s not everyday you get to tool around a 4000 gallon punchbowl on a gigantic orange slice. Share this:TwitterFacebookLinkedInPocketRedditGoogleTumblrEmailPrintPinterestLike this:Like...

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Tequila! (Single-estate Tequila at that)

Tequila! Pee-WeeHerman dancing on a counter top in white platform shoes to the beat of the song, “Tequila”. Upside-down Margaritas and that irritating whistle they’d blow while maniacally shaking your head. Bringing my own blender to dorm parties. Oh, yeah. Memories of growing up in California and going to university in San Diego, just 40 minutes from the Mexican border and Tijuana–haven for underage US drinkers. Tequila, like me, would like to shake off those sordid memories and move on, grow up, become a bit more—civilized. Wandering through the recent consumer event, Bibulous, I was drawn like a moth to the fine tequila stand. I took a trip to Monterey, Mexico a few years ago and visited a tequila museum where I was introduced to some quality tequila so I was curious to see what the Mexicans had brought to the shores of Ol’ Blighty (and no Jose Cuervo Gold in sight!). The Mexican government has devoted considerable time and money to promoting tequila around the world and part of that initiative is the Tequila Roadshow which rolled into Vinopolis as part of Bibulous a few weeks ago. The Tequila Roadshow is highlighting premium tequila featuring 8 world class brands, all composed of 100% agave; Cuervo Platino, Clase Azul, Tequila Ocho, Campo Azul, Herradura, Olmeca Atos, Tres Generaciones and Casa de Don Agustin. I walked up and said, “Give me something interesting”. Tom Estes, European Tequila Ambassador and the fellow manning the stand, was happy to oblige. At first he suggested, reposado (aged less than a year in oak), than anejo (aged minimum of 1 year, max 3 years in oak), ho-hum. I said interesting. And then he said, “Wanna try some single-estate tequila?” Now you’re talking, Tom. Ocho Tequila is the first one to feature a vintage and each are from a single estate which signifies the exact year of harvest and the location of the agave plants. The idea behind single estate tequilas is to highlight the relationship between terroir and the finished product. Ocho Tequilas are made in...

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