November: Bitters blending at Shaker & Co

This post has been written by one of our members – the wonderful Sandrae Lawrence of The Cocktail Lovers. As well as taking part in our bitters blending Sandrae and Gary were on hand to help us to judge the final 14 recipes made by our members. Her thoughts on the evening are below…

In our books a tutored tasting of the superior bitters in Master of Malt’s extensive portfolio would be a fabulous way to while away any evening but those clever chaps from the London Cocktail Society went and upped the ante for their latest outing. Imagine it; not only did we get to play wannabe alchemists playing with Master of Malt’s single ingredient bitters, there was also a fabulous prize up for grabs: the chance for the winning recipe to be put in production. Well, you didn’t need to ask us twice…

The setting was the brilliant downstairs room at Shaker & Company. It was decked out in full Benedictine regalia on that particular night but each month a different brand will take it over. For our purposes the retro school desks, wooden seats and dark, moody lighting worked perfectly – particularly when lined with the myriad apothecary bottles featuring the likes of juniper, black pepper, curacao, coffee and clove. After being warned about being too heavy-handed with the intensely dry angelica and the unbelievably hot naga chilli, the 14 teams set to work, aiming to create a winning recipe in 30 minutes. And yes, it was as tough as it sounds.

No sooner had we tasted a little bit of this and a little bit of that (one teeny droplet of each on the back of the hand), it was time to dream up something people might be willing to pay for. We didn’t do well. We knew that even before our mixture was put up for blind tasting. We’d like to pretend that was because we were called on to be judges but really, it was just that we didn’t get the balance right. Honestly, it’s so much harder than you might think.

With our judges hats on we offered up our palates to the 14 original recipes, each vying for the chance to have their creators faces immortalised on the winning bottle. Ben Ellefsen from Master of Malt led the proceedings, while Emma, Kate, Mark and yours truly brought up the rear. Apart from one or two dubious offerings (ours was probably among them) the overall standard was satisfyingly good but two mixtures really stood out.

Step forward Camille Hobby-Limon who came a very close second to a highly delighted Mike Wood, Kevin Bee and Victor Gembala who made up the Brick Lane team. Their winning concoction, inspired by curry (though not tasting of it) was further tweaked during an evening at Graphic bar, where the wonderful Sarah and Adam made some cocktails for the group to try them in, before some further additions were included. This final recipe is now in production.

London Cocktail Bitters are available to buy from Master of Malt now! Make sure you add a bottle to your cocktail lover’s Christmas stocking.


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