October: L.T.D at The Social

This post has been written by one of our members – James Mitchell who has recently begun a blog called Straight-Up Lifestyle. You can also find him on Twitter, his username is @JG_Mitchell. His thoughts are below… L.T.D turns cocktail snobbery on its head, flips it over and then takes it one step further. After years of cocktail imbibitions, you may well be able to navigate your way around a choice of 30 gins or more. At L.T.D, however, you can leave that sort of knowledge at the door. That’s because you’ll be drinking what the barman gives you and that’s a choice of precisely one base spirit per category. Yes, that’s right – just one vodka, one gin, one whiskey (and its not a bourbon or even rye), one tequila, one Cognac and one rum. And that’s it! But L.T.D’s Spartan approach to bartending doesn’t stop there. If you’re expecting Riedel glassware, think again. You’ll see the barman shaking your drink in a jam jar, taking the lid off and sticking a couple of straws in there for you. And that’s your drink, served up just like that. Welcome to L.T.D! The London Cocktail Society (LCS) kindly organised an outing for its members to L.T.D on Halloween. The visit involved a little bit of fancy dress, a few tastings and a talk from cocktail master Dré Masso, the brains behind the bar concept/experiment. L.T.D in its current incarnation is a one off – what you might call a pop-up, but they prefer the term ‘bar experiment’ It’s based in the upstairs bar at The Social, 5 Little Portland Street and is being headed up by Dré Masso for just three months, running from 1st October 2011 until New Year’s eve, so there is still plenty of time to check it out and form your own opinions on the place. For me the limited selection of spirits is intriguing. With such a selection you might expect to find a choice of the most revered luxury brands in the trade but no, the selection at L.T.D includes Stolichnaya Vodka, Beefeater Gin, Havana Club 7 Year Old Rum, Ocho Blanco Vintage Tequila, Courvoisier VS Cognac and (surprise of all surprises), Jameson Irish Whiskey! There are of course an abundance of bitters, fruit juices mixers and many other ingredients involved, however these have been decanted into green bottles so as not to...
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May: The Zetter Townhouse (exclusive preview)

Such is our reputation for enjoying a good drink, we are often fortunate to be invited to give new bars the once over before they formally open for business.  One such occasion was the hotly anticpated opening of the Zetter Townhouse, a quirky but endearing hotel in Clerkenwell.  In place of the usual hotel reception, the entire ground floor is given over to the cocktail bar, put together in collaboration with Tony Conigliaro and Camille Hobby-Limon of 69 Colebrooke Row fame. With such a pedigree behind them, its fair to say we were expecting big things from the cocktails, but the decor was the first thing to take our breath away when we arrived.  The idea behind the look of the bar is that it looks like the living room of Aunt Wilhelmina who is a well-travelled but eccentric character.  Cue all manner of oddities ranging from cats holding umbrellas to boxing kangaroos and seating that looks as though it has travelled the world.  Different yes, but also incredibly cosy and welcoming. Members enjoyed discounted rates on the drinks, allowing everyone to check out the full menu should they so desire!  A particular hit was the ‘Master at Arms’, a mix of port evaporation, myers rum and grenadine served in a small coupette with fine string tied into a sailors knot around the stem.  When they weren’t drinking their way through the menu, members enjoyed a bite or two to eat and tried their hand at table tennis in the games room downstairs.  This bar is sure to become a firm...
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August: Maker’s Mark at LAB

This post has been written by one of our members – Sarah Belizaire-Butler who runs the blog Eats, Drinks & Sleeps. She describes good food and drink as “the cornerstone of my universe” and we couldn’t agree more! In August Sarah attended our Maker’s Mark event at LAB in Soho. Her thoughts are below:   I have my Spirits WSET Diploma exam in a couple of months and so have signed myself up for a raft of Spirits tastings to help get up to speed. First up on my list was the Bourbon evening at LAB (London Academy of Bartenders) with the London Cocktail Society on Bank Holiday Monday. London Cocktail Society is a great collection of cocktail fiends. The group is free to join and every month members are invited to exclusive tastings, cool cocktail bars or distillery visits. The bourbon evening was hosted by Maker’s Mark brand ambassador, and Kentucky girl with an authentic Southern drawl, Jane Conner. Maker’s Mark only has one whisky in the UK market and so instead of showing a range of different whiskies we wouldn’t be able to buy, Jane took us through a maturation tasting of Maker’s Mark, comparing and contrasting White Dog, Under Mature, Fully Mature and Over Mature examples of Maker’s Mark. First Jane set the scene with a potted history of Bourbon and Maker’s Mark. Bourbon was first created out of luck and necessity. In order to develop Kentucky in the 1770s, the ‘Corn Patch and Cabin Rights’ law was passed, it encouraged settlers to plant a corn patch and build a cabin in order to lay claim to 400 acres of land. A pretty good deal. Corn is a bulky produce and due to the incentives to plant corn there was plenty of excess, excess which the Scottish, Irish and German immigrants knew they could distil into whisky. Kentucky was an ideal place to produce whisky due to its plentiful supply of both corn, and water – gallons of which is used as part of the distillation process. Kentucky was blessed with an iron-free water supply that was filtered through limestone soils. Water with a high iron content would have had the unfortunate result of turning the whisky black – worth checking if you are in a hard water area or not before you try topping up your Dad’s whisky with tap water. He will notice. The...
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August: Choosing Bourne & Hollingsworth’s pouring rum

This post has been written by one of our members – Billy Abbott who runs the excellent Billy’s Booze Blog. In August Billy attended our rum event at the Bourne & Hollingsworth. His thoughts on the event, the rum and the cocktails are below: One of the continuing themes of this blog is a sentence at the start vaguely conforming to a pattern of ‘One of the boozes I don’t know well is X and it was lovely when Y asked me along to try some for REASON Z’. So, assume that I’ve done that again with X=light rum, Y=The London Cocktail Society and REASON Z is basement bar Bourne & Hollingsworth choosing their house pouring rum, and we can then move on from this opening paragraph. Despite having heard a bit about it over the last year or so I’d still not made it over to Bourne & Hollingsworth and wasn’t entirely sure what to expect. The reviews seem rather polarised, with complaints about it getting packed leading to long waits at the bar (justified – it’s a small room with a small bar, with most of the space taken up by an open area for people to mill around in front of the bar) and that they charge too much for drinks which generally are distinguished by being served in teacups (unjustified – if you are going to a decent cocktail bar in London and are complaining about paying £7.50 for a cocktail no matter what type of receptacle it’s served in then you are probably in the wrong kind of bar. Bourne & Hollingsworth’s drinks quality certainly push it into the £7 a go bracket of London cocktail bars). It’s small and a great place, I suspect, on weekdays, but based on a Saturday night I can see it quickly turning into my idea of packed bar hell. But then again, I do hate people… The London Cocktail Society’s role was a simple one – find a discerning crowd of cocktail drinkers to come down to the bar on a Saturday night and then taste their way through the candidates for the new house pouring rum – Ron Barcelo, Flor de Caña and El Dorado. To add a bit more competitiveness to the evening we were also joined by brand ambassadors from two of the three rums, with bar boss Dino Koletsas taking on the role...
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July: Gin Mare at Saf

It is no secret that we are partial to a drop or two of gin, and welcome the diversity that the category now offers drinkers.  One such gin that steps outside of the traditional botanical profile is Gin Mare. In addition to the common gin botanicals, including of course juniper, Gin Mare introduces a decidedly Mediterranean flavour with the use of rosemary, thyme, olive and basil. To check out this relatively new gin, we headed along to Saf, a vegan restaurant in Shoreditch for a bit of a tasting.  Saf kindly allowed us the use of their courtyard which was the perfect venue to check out a gin with such a summery vibe.  In amongst the seating, the courtyard plays home to a wide range of plants that are used in the cooking of the restaurant.  Of particular envy was the outdoor bar, fashioned from a greenhouse! We were treated to a tasting of the gin which, despite being far from classical in taste, won much applaud from members.  The juniper shone through sufficiently to ensure there was no doubt this was a gin, but the Mediterranean botanicals added a summery and distinctly savoury note that was generally considered a great success.  Several cocktails were offered up for tasting to demonstrate the versatility of this gin in addition to the essential G+T, but garnished with a choice of basil, rosemary or thyme.  Truly unique gins are increasingly hard to come by, and it is always a risk to go off-piste but from our members reaction, Gin Mare has succeeded on both...
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May: Balvenie Whisky Den

Guest post by one of our members: Mr Ryan Alexander aka @rnalexander In May, the nice people at The Balvenie set up an special treat for whisky lovers just next to Covent Garden in London. A temporary installation in the space that used to be an antiquarian bookstore, these ‘pop-ups’ are becoming a trend. In this case whisky fans would have a month’s window of opportunity to come by the Balvenie Whisky Den to get a special chance to sample some of the Balvenie line, and learn a bit more about it. Even better, the Balvenie folks arranged a special evening for the LCS to come and pay a visit. I was particularly interested as whisky is one of weaker areas of my spirits knowledge and this seemed an excellent place to try to shore that up. The old bookstore had been stripped down to the walls and the new furnishings were constructed out of long thin timbers and staves (the pieces of wood that make up barrels). The effect was to give the place a feel somewhere in-between a pirate ship and a garden shed (in a good way!). We all gathered in the upstairs where we were given a chance to try some of the Balvenie’s lines. A double-wooded 12, their signature 12 blend, and a lovely 15-year old (my personal favourite.) We got to hear a little bit more about the history of the company and the whisky, some of which was literally all around us, as it turns out the timbers they used for the décor were from old whiskey barrels. After a bit more chatting we were taken downstairs where the furnishings were even more elaborate. But the real surprise was that were were invited to participate in a blend-off. We broke into teams and each team was given three bottles of whiskey, one of the each of the three single-malt whiskeys which are blended to make the Balvenie signature 12. Our task, blend our own signature! Those who remember the great triumph of the Christmas party at Callooh Callay will know that I am not one to back down from such a challenge. My team therefore set out to create a blend to take on all challengers. It was a bit touch and go, towards the end one of my fellow team mates noticed the flat middle of the flavour curve of our...
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