Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Book review: Where Bartenders Drink





What’s the first thing you do when you’re going to a new city? If you’re anything like me, it will be to scour the internet for the best bars and cocktails.

Sometimes, I’ll get lucky and hit upon a few gems, but more often than not, every available link is TripAdvisor, and the highest rated bar is a party Irish bar that’s just fabulous for hen and stag dos. Not really my thing.

That’s where ‘Where Bartenders Drink’ comes in. It’s a reference book of bars from around the world, selected by around 225 of the world’s top bartenders.

It’s been compiled by Adrienne Stillman, the co-founder and editor-in-chief at Dipsology, an online community for cocktail enthusiasts in NYC. When she’s not busy with that, she works in wine, spirits and hospitality marketing, as well as being a certified sommelier.

The book features 700 bars, covering everything from the fanciest cocktail bars, to the dingiest, charming dive bars, and hidden neighbourhood pubs. 



I am one of those people that goes to a new city armed with a list of bars I want to go to, rather than a list of sights I want to see. I’m afraid this book has made my boozy wanderlust just a little bit worse. Not only has it opened my eyes to a lot more places with great bar scenes, but the numbers of great bars in those places, too.

The bar reviews are insightful – these people really know their drinks, naturally – there are specially commissioned maps to help you find your way around, and introductory essays to different regions around the world.

I live in London, and the suggestions are a list of my favourite bars across the city – including Nightjar, Happiness Forgets, Callooh Callay, Blind Pig, and 69 Colebrooke Row – and the rest are on my must-visit list, with the likes of Dandelyan (I know, how have I not been yet?), The American Bar at The Savoy, and Artesian. So I’ve got plenty to tick off at home before I start dreaming of more cocktails further afield.



So if you’ve got a friend who’s constantly telling you where and what to drink, you know what to get them for their next present. I can guarantee they’ll find somewhere new., and you can feel nice and smug about it.

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Paradigms and Pervenus @ Theatre of Wine



Those of you who have followed my wine adventures for a little while will know that every so often (and not nearly often enough, may I say…) I organise a wine tasting session for the somewhat grandly titled Camden Symphony Orchestra Wine Society. I say "grandly titled", as the name is a deliberate subterfuge designed to give an element of credibility and refinement to a rag-tag bunch of wastrels who agree with Primal Scream that “we just wanna get loaded; and we wanna have a good time”. 

Once more for this tasting we found ourselves at my favourite wine shop, Theatre of Wine in Tufnell Park. We were fortunate to be reunited with Jason for this tasting as he knows how to deal with situations such as one member of the group turning up with a bottle of Jameson, which he was sipping on in between wine flights – not something you’d see recommended in the WSET handbook for optimal wine tasting. In his defence, it was St Patrick’s Day on the day of the tasting, I’m sure he doesn’t always drink whiskey in between his glasses of wine... 


The brief for the evening I had set for Jason was to do a tasting that contrasted Old World traditions versus New World upstarts; which he delivered in the imaginatively titled tasting session: “Paradigms and Parvenus”. Whilst we reacquainted ourselves with the surroundings (and I dealt with the fact that I had completely cocked up the number of people who were attending…) we started with a 2015 Paolini Lance Grillo (Italy). On the nose this was a pleasant wine, if a little one-dimensional; it featured notes of lemon and had a slightly waxy-characteristic. On tasting it had bright flavours of lemon, tinged with side notes of green apple, pink grapefruit and a smattering of pineapple on the mid-palate. A decent wine (7.0/10.0) and a bargain at £10.90/bottle. 

From then on we were tasting wines in pairs, matching up the Old World wine against the New World wine. In this way we were able to compare and contrast the wines against each other and look for the variation between them.
 

Chardonnays


Our New World Chardonnay came from Chile and was a 2014 Clos des Fous "Locura I" (Alto Cachapoal, Chile). It featured no oak on it at all and came from a vineyard with particularly high altitude. On the nose it had a rather unpleasant (for me) eggy, sulphuric note to it with little fruit evident. However, on the mouth it was surprisingly bright and fresh with a light pear flavour that was very enjoyable. Once you got past the nose, it was an enjoyable wine (7.0/10.0); £14.50/bottle. 

We contrasted this against a 2009 Guillaume Collection (Franche-Comte, France). This wine had certainly seen oak and was a fair bit older; on the nose it was rich and exotic with beautiful butterscotch notes. On tasting it was full of buttery deliciousness that reminded me of brioche, which was followed by mango fruit later on. I thoroughly enjoyed this wine (8.0/10.0); £29.00/bottle. This was as much, however, of a reminder a how variable and flexible the Chardonnay grape is, as much as it was a contrast between Old and New World wines.
 

Roses 


For the roses, Jason played with the brief a little. Rather than going Old World vs New World, he focussed on showing the difference between winemakers who make rose in a “white wine” style, as opposed to those who make it in a “red wine” style (as you can see from the photograph to the right ->). For the white wine style of rose, we were presented with a 2015 Rimauresq (Provence, France) which was light and delicate on the nose (ie: didn’t smell of anything in particular) and when tasted had grapefruit notes, which I found a trifle dull (6.5/10.0); £12.80/bottle. 

On the red wine style we had a 2014 Oikonomoy Liatiko (Crete, Greece) which had a bizarre nose which was well described by one of the group as having “the funk of an old red wine that had gone bad”. On tasting, however, I really enjoyed this; it had more tannic presence and, as a result, had more structure. The dominant flavours that came through were redcurrant and red cherries. I also felt that there was almost a sherry-like oxidative profile to the wine – probably due to the unfiltered nature of the wine. I certainly preferred this wine to the previous, although I think you will be able to have guessed that! (7.5/10.0); £17.90/bottle. 

Rhone-style blends 


For the first of our two reds we started off by looking at Rhone-style blends. Our first in this duo was a wine from one of my favourite producers, a 2014 Liberator “The Francophile” (Stellenbosch, South Africa). On the nose this had very pleasing aromas of blueberry, blackcurrant and a sprig of hawthorn. On tasting it had a lovely blackcurrant juiciness to it, with just a wisp of smokiness too. This was a fantastically enjoyable wine (7.5/10.0) and a steal at the price, £9.80/bottle.  

To contrast we had a 2015 Betton Espiegle (Crozes-Hermitage, Rhone; France), which had a somewhat quiet nose featuring classy notes of red cherry and a bit of plum. On tasting it featured noticeably more body than the previous wine, whilst still having considerable acidity to balance it all out. There was an extra complexity to this wine of a slightly gamey taste (reminded me a little bit of smokey bacon). This was a good wine (8.0/10.0), but more expensive at £16.90/bottle – making the parvenu a much better value wine in my book. 

Aromatic reds 


The last of our pairs focussed on the holy grail of wine making, those light, ethereal, almost spiritual, aromatic red wines. We started with an offering from another of my favourite producers, a 2013 Au Bon Climat Santa Maria Pinot Noir (Sonoma County, USA). Interestingly this wine has been made specifically to recreate the Burgundian-style of Pinot – hence the name. The nose had characteristic sour cherry presence, with touches of eucalyptus and truffle underlining its elegance. The taste was delightful and sensuous, light and energetic, with bags of red fruit flavours, predominantly strawberry. A lovely wine (8.5/10.0); I think good value at £25.90/bottle.

This was contrasted with a 2015 Brezza Langhe Nebbiolo (Piedmont, Italy). Jason described this as being typically Italian in that it represented a “slightly sterner approach to wine”. On the nose it was a little quieter, but the taste was something very interesting – the presence of tannins was very noticeable, it also featured some very powerful black cherry notes. This, like a lot of Italian wines, is really a food wine and needs something to match against it. A classical wine, if not as enjoyable as the last wine from a hedonistic perspective (8.0/10.0); £19.90/bottle. 

Conclusion


As ever with the Theatre of Wine, this was an interesting and thought-provoking tasting. I feel that we all learnt something about the breadth and complexity of the wine world, and (hopefully) found some new passions as well as rekindling some old flames.

Thanks to Jason and the team for hosting us. We will be back soon!

Note: all prices quoted above are based on list prices from Theatre of Wine.   

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

The best gin related summer events in 2017

Copper Rivet gin distillery guest post

It looks like 2017 is another great year for gin lovers. With a wide range of fantastic gin events and festivals on, you are spoilt for choice. The gin connoisseurs at Copper Rivet have pulled out what they think to be the best gin events of the summer, so get your diaries out and be sure to give them a try.




Junipalooza, London (Tobacco Dock) – World Gin Day 2017

Junipalooza is one of the biggest gin festivals in the UK. This year will be the festival’s fourth year, and many consider it to be the best way to spend World Gin Day. Junipalooza is essentially a celebration of gin – providing guests with the opportunity to sample fine quality gins from distilleries based all around the world. The festival will host 55 gin makers and 155 different gins, from 12 different countries. You can truly explore the world of gin at this unique and memorable event. The amazing Tobacco Docks venue is an added bonus, too.

Date: 11-12 June (Saturday – Sunday)
Location: Tobacco Dock, London, E1W 2SF
Ticket price: £30

For more information about the Junipalooza event, click here.



Frosts’ Chilli, Chocolate & Gin Festival, Woburn Sands, Milton Keynes (Frosts Garden Centres)

Are you a fan of chilli, chocolate and gin? Then you will love Frosts’ annual food festival. Boasting an excellent selection of the most unique chilli products, the best chocolatiers, and the finest gin producers in the UK, the Frosts day festival is a superb day out for foodies. While sampling local produce from a huge variety of UK producers, you can whet the palate with a selection of best gins. And help tame the heat. Whether you’re a lover of gin, chocolate or chilli, you’re guaranteed to pick up a few gems here.

Date: 26 August (August Bank Holiday)
Location: Woburn Sands, Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire, MK 8UE
Ticket price: £3

For more information about Frosts’ Chilli, Chocolate & Gin Festival, please click here.



Juniper Festival – Edinburgh (Summerhall)

The Juniper Festival is another fan favourite among gin lovers. The Edinburgh-based festival offers an excellent line up of gin and tonic makers, expert talks, and unique tasting experiences for everyone to enjoy. You’ll be able to try before you buy on a wide selection of gins, food products, handmade fashions and crafts. The Juniper Festival really is a celebration of all things gin, showcasing a wonderful array of styles and tastes, including of course, traditional Scottish gin. Guests can also explore the various food stalls and dabble in some of the finest street food around. Cocktail enthusiasts will be in their element too, with a fantastic choice of mixed drinks available.

Date: 2-4 June (Friday – Sunday)
Location: Summerhall, Edinburgh
Ticket price: £21.50

For more information about the Juniper Festival, please click here.



Gin Festival – London (Tobacco Dock) 

The Gin Festival is the UK’s biggest and oldest gin festival, and probably the most popular event in gin lovers’ calendars. This year’s festival will be hosted in 18 different cities throughout the UK, giving gin-thusiasts all over the country the opportunity to experience some of the best and most exclusive gin products on the market. London’s edition will, like Junipalooza, use the historic Tobacco Dock as its venue. With more than 100 different grains to try, this event is a gin lover’s paradise. There will also be gin masterclasses (with the opportunity to meet professional gin distillers), a gin cocktail bar, live music, and plenty of food to line your stomach with.

If you fancy carrying on the party, why not check out the incredibly popular London Gin Club, or take a stroll down to the classy 214 Bermondsey, where you can sample some the best gin and cocktails London has to offer.

Date: 25-27 August
Location: Tobacco Dock, Wapping, London, E1W 2DA
Ticket price: £15.21

For more information about the London Gin Festival, please click here.

So there you have it. If you don't have time to get to a gin festival this year, there are plenty of gin distilleries that offer tours these days. If you’re ever in the Kent or London area, take a gin tour at Copper Rivet, a brand new craft gin distillery in Kent.