March: Blind Gin Tasting

At our Christmas party we surveyed our members as to what their top 3 gins were. This was in preparation for a blind gin tasting later on in the year. We decided March was the perfect time and just needed a suitable venue. We figured there was no better place to drink gin that a gin bar, and no better gin bar in London than Graphic! When we said blind we meant it, as we gave no indications as to what the gins on the menu for the night were. This was because we wanted to strip away any trace of marketing and focus on the contents of the bottle. On the night there were the 3 gins that our members had voted as their favourite and a couple of sneaky additions from Mark, Kate and I. As everyone began to arrive, the very lovely Adam from behind the bar handed out welcome G&T’s, each made using one of the 5 gins. These had been decanted into plain bottles so that there was no indication as to what they were….ooo the intrigue! On the tasting table there were a further 5 wine bottles filled with the gins and around 300 tasting glasses sat lined up side by side (yes I did stick the stickers on each of them!). We made up some tasting sheets so that people could write down their thoughts and tasting notes, and also record their top 5 in order of preference. Once everyone had arrived the tasting began, and Mark and I handed around the various samples of gin. They were colour coded so that red=1, orange=2, yellow=3, green=4 and blue=5. The task was not an easy one, as not only did we want our members to rank the gins in order of preference, but we also wanted them to have a guess as to which gin they were drinking. We realise that ranking the gins and trying to guess what they were was a particularly difficult task as we were asking people to drink the gin neat, which we realise isn’t the usual way most people drink gin!! However we were really happy to see everyone getting involved and exploring the gin category – which is what we intended the evening to do.     The scores were tallied up and the final result was: 1 – Tanquaray 10 2 – Sipsmith 3 –...
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March: Four Roses

At our March meeting we were lucky enough to have Mr Dan Priseman in session and tending stick behind the bar at Academy (formerly L.A.B). Dan works for Four Roses bourbon, and also runs a blog called Bitters and Twisted. I imagine there’s very little you’d want to know about bourbon that this man doesn’t know! A veritable fountain of knowledge we were all looking forward to an evening learning loads about this wonderful category! Academy were kind enough to give us most of the downstairs space for the evening, and Dan took up residency behind the bar to make us some fab cocktails. Made in jam jars we had the choice of a mint julep, kentucky lemonade and something yummy with peach, the name of which escapes me now! Aimed at being quick and simple to make (he was tending bar solo!), they were perfect for the evening and fantastically yummy too. Part way through the night Dan talked through bourbon, it’s heritage, production methods, and the Four Roses brand specifically whilst we tasted the range starting with the Yellow Label (40% ABV). It was interesting to see opinion divided between whether people preferred the small batch (45% ABV) or single barrel (50% ABV). A fantastically fun and educational evening all round we’d like to thank the guys at Academy for giving us the space, and the super awesome Dan for both tending stick and imparting some of his vast wisdom upon...
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February: El Dorado at Trailer Happiness

When doing tastings, we like to match the spirit brand with an appropriate bar to get the mood just right.  So when we learned that El Dorado Rum and tiki bar Trailer Happiness were keen to do events with us, well it was a match made in heaven.  International brand ambassador Stephanie Holt hosted the evening with her usual captivating enthusiasm, and led us through a tasting of the entire El Dorado range. First up was the 3 yr. white rum, with its creamy and tropical fruit flavors, with many members commenting how surprised they were that a white rum could be so delicious neat!  The 5 yr. and 8 yr. old rums were next up, and it immediately became clear that each rum in the range was very distinctive.  The 5 yr. scored top marks for its buttery unctuousness, whilst the 8 yr. received a lot of praise from members who considered this might be the youngest rum worthy of siping neat they had found.  If there was anyone left in the room yet to fall inlove with this fabulous rum brand, the next two rums were certainly going to seal the deal.  Everyone had their favorite out of the 12 and 15 yr. expressions, but all agreed they were as good as rum gets (and it gets good!) Once we were all suitably refreshed, it was time to get competitive.  Members split themselves into small teams, and were challenged to create their own swizzle-style drink from a bunch of ingredients.  During the tasting, Stephanie has told us that the swizzle is one of the oldest drinks around, and always contained rum, something sweet, something sour, and something bitter.  The ingredients are then simply churned using a swizzle stick with crushed ice to create a refreshing and delicious libation! With sufficient ingredients for two teams at a time to create their concoction, the remainder of the group undertook the arduous task of checking out the cocktail menu specially created by the team at Trailer Happiness for the event.  The competition entries were varied and tasty enough to make the judging panels job a tricky one.  Regrettably the names of the winners is lost somewhere in the ether but they were no doubt pleased as punch to be returning home with a bottle of El...
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November: Sipsmith Distillery

The address was correct and my map was telling me that I was going in the right direction, however could this quiet residential street really be the place I was looking for? A couple of minutes later I dubiously knocked on the door of what looked like a garage. As the door opened I knew I was in the right place: I had found the Sipsmith distillery. Prudence (their still) was gleaming at the back of the room and the remaining space was full of stock, raw sprits, ingredients and bottles – the remnants of previous experiments! Further exploration confirmed that this one large room was pretty much it: when they say small batch they really aren’t joking!! Our lucky members began to arrive, most of them equally baffled with the location, and then a rather flustered Sam Galsworthy (co-founder of Sipsmith) turned up. To apologise for his (very slight) lateness he made us all G&T’s: he was more than forgiven! He then started to talk us through his background in the industry and how the brand came to be in a tiny shed in Hammersmith! It was an absolute pleasure to listen to his stories, he is such a great story teller and full of passion for what he does. Setting up a distillery (surprisingly) isn’t quite as straightforward as you’d think and there were a few trials and tribulations along the way, however these made the story all the more interesting… Firstly Prudence is a purely copper still, which is very unusual, and cost more than a few bob, especially as the cost of copper soared during her build. Secondly *someone* didn’t measure the height of the ceiling correctly (it slopes) so she nearly didn’t fit when she arrived. The problems didn’t stop there though…as the government hadn’t written a distillers licence for so long they virtually had to invent the process, and then when it finally arrived it was dated incorrectly for a year in the future. However despite all of the problems they encountered along the way they have two stunning spirits to show for it…trust me, they truly are something special. As we moved onto tasting their vodka Sam talked us through the history of the building itself. It turns out that the ‘shed’ has quite the history in terms of spirits and distilling, with Sam commenting that in a way it has ‘always...
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October: Callooh Callay

The first meeting of the London Cocktail Society at 69 Colebrooke Row went so well that it seemed impossible the next one could be anything other than a let down.  Luckily our second hosts, Callooh Callay were, more than up to the job and provided such a different atmosphere there could be no suffering by comparison. Visiting Callooh Callay for the first time is quite an experience. The front bar is fairly typical ‘Shoreditch’ in style with eccentric lighting and random furniture dotted around. But then you realise the wardrobe in the corner is not just for effect – it’s actually a portal to another bar, with a short corridor taking you to a pop art styled lounge. This chi-chi retreat itself contains another hidden entrance behind a curtain, leading on to a staircase.  Curiouser and curiouser… At the top of the staircase is a locked door, entry to which is by drinking a shrinking potiona members key (membership open to anyone, so long as they appreciate fine spirits and mixed drinks). Inside is where the journey through Wonderland ends,  at the ever so civilised and intimate Jub Jub bar. Sean Ware was our host for the evening, which was pretty heroic considering he’d just come out of hospital. He’d created a menu especially for us, giving a potted history of drinking in the capital through the last two hundred years. After Sean had given an informal talk-through of the menu with interesting trivia on the drinks’ origins and historic setting, we got down to the important business of working our way through the list: Hot Gin Punch (Hendricks Gin, pineapple, Madeira wine, citrus, honey, winter spices) A traditional winter warmer, punches were hugely popular in Georgian and Victorian times, when it was safer to drink alcohol than water. This version from Sean is a modern take  on the formula. John Collins The original Collins as made with Genever giving a nice pungent depth to an otherwise refreshing classic. Since this version got overtaken in popularity by the Tom Collins – originally with Old Tom gin – the John Collins is now commonly made with whisky.  This old verse from the early 1800s says it...
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