Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Gaymers Pear Cider



Never mind that Gaymers Pear Cider probably doesn't meet the strict and well-complicated criteria to qualify as a genuine perry. If you're looking for something refreshing as an aperitif to an ale session, say, or after a 2k run, you could do worse than order one of these. The above pint, served from the tap and consumed thirstily from a balcony overlooking the Thames, was peary, and not overly sweet nor tart. Nice one, Somerset.

Monday, 27 September 2010

Coconut Water



Bit of a weird one this, but I've been getting cravings recently for coconut water. It's the clear liquid that comes from young coconuts (as opposed to the richer milk found in mature fruit) and is apparently very good for you - fat-free, low in calories and rich in potassium and electrolytes. In fact, it's so damn healthy it's used as an intravenous hydration fluid in some developing countries where medical saline is unavailable (it's true - Wikipedia says so). Drank chilled, like the glass above, it refreshed parts I hitherto were not sure existed.

The can pictured top was bought in the US, but the other day I was delighted to discover you can get cartons of the stuff in the UK too. Vita Coco - 100% pure coconut water - is said to contain 20 times the amount of potassium found in sports drinks, which is why its described as a "super-hydrator". Believe me, you don't need to commit sport to benefit from its rejuvenating properties.

BUY IT? Vita Coco is available from Waitrose, Holland & Barrett and Whole Foods.

Saturday, 25 September 2010

Languedoc-Roussillon Wine


I can't say I know much anything about French wine. Having read a little, I understand that lots of it is really expensive, and that some of it is the best in the world. But generally I'd avoid it simply because I don't have a clue. At a tasting of wines from the Languedoc-Roussillon region, as part of the Sud de France Festival, I tried to educate myself through the medium of drinking. The region, on the south coast, is the oldest wine-producing area in the country, consisting of about 20 geographically defined appellations and - get this - producing more than 40% of France's wine. It's also considered to be the country's bargain basement when it comes to fermented grapes, which has to be good news for the general drinker.

At the tasting, we tried a good few, reinforced by plenty of French tapas, if there is such a thing. It became apparent early on that the region is so massive, and varied, it's hard to describe a "typical" Languedoc-Roussillon. By my reckoning, there was a tendency towards dryness in both the whites and reds, not something I necessarily go for. But every now and then I stumbled across a great'un, where the tannins accepted a supporting role. Here are my top little picks:


Whites


Laurent Miguel Vérité
 2008, 13.5%
Made with Viognier grapes, available from Waitrose.
The oakiest white wine ever! Dry, rich, aromatic and substantial. 

Domaine Guillaume Cabrol Picpoul de Pinet Prestige 2009

Another white, this one made from Picpoul grapes.
Green fruits, citrus, melon and freshly cut grass. A top picnic wine!

Leon Barral Blanc Biodynamic 2008, 13%
Biodynamic wine is organic plus, produced according to a number of spiritual principles, with reference to lunar and cosmic rhythms, etc. (read more here).
Cloudy, yellow colour. Full bodied, sweet - a good breakfast wine, someone noted.



Reds

Silene Grande Cuvée 2004

80% Syrah, 20% Grenache, aged for 22 months in French new oak barrels.
This red was my overall favourite of the whole evening. Vanilla-oak flavours, reasonably rich with a touch of chocolate, and a slight dryness ending silkily.

Trois Orris Sirissime 2008
, 14.5%
A nicely balanced wine made with 100% Syrah grapes.
Rich and fruity red, with a decent velvety finish.

Dessert

Treloar Muscat de Rivesaltes
2006, 15.5%
A white dessert wine made with Muscat grapes by an English-run family winery. An inscription on the bottle asks imbibers to drink "as an aperitif and with cakes, pudding, cheeses and chocolates". OK, will do.
Clean, green fruit, sweet, but not thick or syrupy, with a little acidity providing balance.

Lots still to learn - but thankfully this sort of learning doesn't feel like work in the slightest. Merci Biens, Les Français!

MORE! The Sud de France Festival runs in London until September 30. Check out the events schedule here.

Friday, 24 September 2010

Clover Club



The Clover Club is a pink drink of distinction hailing from pre-prohibition times. There is something delightful about its gin/citrus/foam combination - don't ask me what. This recipe is borrowed from Dale DeGroff's beautiful booze bible The Essential Cocktail.

Clover Club


45ml (1.5oz) gin

22.5ml (0.75oz) lemon juice
22.5ml (0.75oz) simple syrup
1/2 teaspoon Grenadine
White of 1/2 small egg

Add ingredients to a cocktail shaker - without ice - and shake well to lightly whip the egg white. Add ice and shake some more, before straining into a martini or champagne coupe glass.

It's not even that hard to make, once you've dealt with the egg white (which, by the way, definitely benefits from a bit of dry shaking before the addition of ice). Careful you don't overdo the Grenadine, that pink pomegranate syrup, which is better in touches.

MORE: For a Clover Leaf, simply garnish the thing with a sprig of fresh mint.

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Ale Album



What beers have I been liking recently, you ask?

Blandford Fly, Badger/Hall & Woodhouse (5.2%) Bottled.
For fans of ginger beer and beer comes this superb cross between the two. Imbibers are advised to server chilled, which I failed to do here, at a picnic on Whitstable beach. But what it lacked in coldness it made up for in all-round tastiness. Very refreshing, and surprisingly strong in booze terms.

Black Pearl
, Gadds (6.2%). Cask.
Staying with Whitstable, which I visited for the Oyster Festival (check out my whisky oysters here), I stumbled across a makeshift bar shifting Gadds' Black Pearl oyster stout (pictured below) for £3 a pint. It didn't taste of oyster, fortunately, more like chocolate and tobacco. It was sweet, and thick, with a coffee kick in there too. Lovely.


Weasel, The Florence (4.5%). Cask.
Having raved about Dam Tasty Beaver Beer, produced by the microbrewery at The Florence pub, in Herne Hill, I went back to find another of their beers on the pumps. Weasel was a light orange/gold colour, with a fruity, citrus aroma (was that banana, too?!) and an unexpectedly sharp-dry hoppy flavour, with a bittersweet finish. Worth a drop - but my loyalties remain with the Beaver.

Camden Hells LagerCamden Town Brewery (4.8%). Cask.
Found on tap at trendy new Islington gastro Wenlock & Essex, and described elsewhere as a "cold fermented and properly matured traditional German unpasteurised lager". I recall a yellowish beer with floral aromas, not much fizz and a lovely nutty finish. The brewery used to be attached to the Horseshoe pub in Hampstead but recently moved to more ambitious premises (in Camden).

Chocolate Nutter, The Why Not Brewery (5.5%). Bottle.
A bottle conditioned ale made from bitter and dark chocolate malts. Purchased mainly because of its beguiling name, but enjoyed nevertheless, alongside a wholesome bowl of chili.

Proper Job, St Austell Brewery (5.5%). Bottle.
A "powerfully hopped" India Pale Ale, bitter in a grapefruit way, but refreshing too.

Stout Hearted, Yeovil Ales (4.3%) Cask.
Tasted at the 11th annual Sturminster Newton Cheese Festival (don't miss the 12th next September!), which happily featured an ale tent too, this stout was great - heavyish but smooth. Top cheese tips: Try Cornish Blue, Exmoor Blue and Sturminster Coastal Cheddar.

Monday, 20 September 2010

Cubre



It's been a good few months since I last joined in the online cocktail soirée that is Mixology Monday. This month's brief - set by Doug at the The Pegu Blog - was to design a drink with lime.

Fortunately, I'd just restocked my citrus supply, and an entire bowl of the luscious green things were staring up at me, begging to be squeezed. I love a well-limed Cuba Libre (rum, cola, lime juice) and settled on reinterpreting this classic long drink.

Having recently visited the almighty Purl cocktail bar in west London, and marvelled at its use of "cola reduction" in one of its beverages, I decided to get all chemistryish myself and boil down a small can of Pepsi to extract its essence. Shaken with lime juice and a good slug of rum, the resulting cocktail tasted like a Cuba Libre, only stronger and (crucially) more limed.


Cubre


60ml (2oz) light rum

30ml (1oz) cola reduction*
15ml (0.5oz) fresh lime juice
Lime peel

Pour ingredients into a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake with determination. Strain into a martini glass and add a lengthy twist of lime peel.

*To make cola reduction pour a can of cola into a pot and heat on the stove. Boil until about two-thirds of its volume has evaporated, leaving a cola syrup.


This is a seriously fun drink: a refined, more sophisticated version of the original, which tastes quite lovely, and limey. If you like Cuba Libres give it a try.

UPDATE: Check out Doug's full MxMo round-up, featuring a lifetime's supply of lime-based cocktail recipes from across the blogosphere, right here.

Friday, 17 September 2010

Peaches and Cream



It's not often I feel the urge to drink peaches and cream. But when I do, I can follow the following recipe (and so can you):

Peaches and Cream

50ml (1.6oz) Archers peach schnapps
20ml (0.6oz) double cream
80ml (2.6oz) soda water

Shake schnapps and cream in a cocktail shaker with ice. Strain into a high-ball glass with fresh ice, top with soda water and stir some more.

Move over, Girly Drink, you've been out-girled.

Thursday, 16 September 2010

Trailer Happiness



177 Portobello Road
London
W11 2DY

I'd been curious to visit this Notting Hill establishment ever since the Rum Dood named it "best tiki bar" - in the world, supposedly. We entered, as is our wont, just as it was opening on a Saturday night, and ordered drinks. The Colada Nueva (pictured top) was a "house secret blend of fine rums & other delicious elixirs blended with pineapple, passion fruit, mango and coconut". It was served ice cold, but not so cold as to cause brain freeze, and the rums were clearly present without overpowering things. I went for a Blood & Sand (below right), which I know was cheating, since it's not a tiki drink, but I wasn't in the mood for fruit and rum, and I'd tried and enjoyed it once before at Trailer's slightly upscale relation The Player. This one (Compass Box Asyla whisky, sweet vermouth, Cherry Heering and orange juice) tasted a tad under-whiskied, or over-cherried, but it was fine.

Arriving as we did when it was still very light outside, and the barstaff were getting things ready for the evening ahead, it was probably our fault that the place lacked a certain atmosphere. I can't really fault the drinks list, either, when we barely scratched its surface. So I'd come back - at a more appropriate time - if I found myself in Notting Hill with a group of friends on a mission to carouse. And given that one of the finest cocktail bars in London is just down the road, this might happen sooner than strictly necessary.

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Fruit Infusions




At a fine wedding on a balmy afternoon in Washington DC I stumbled upon a trio of magical infusions dispensed from little taps attached to the kind of jars I imagine doctors once used for pickling. Cucumber & mint; watermelon; and lemon & lime - the iced water inside tasted of fresh fruit, but only gently. The liquid suggested their contents without forcing them down one's throat, as it were. For those lacking jars with taps, I assume a pitcher and a strainer would achieve a similarly restorative effect.

Monday, 13 September 2010

WS#6: Brilliant Blends



Blends are often maligned by whisky admirers who don't know better. I should know, because I used to be a maligner myself. Luckily, I got over my single-malt-is-superior complex, in part thanks to a happy afternoon spent imbibing some superb Compass Box blends at the Whisky Lounge Festival in Brighton earlier this year. Sceptics should remember that 92% of all whisky is blended. Most whisky drinkers drink blends, and for Whisky Squad #6, at least, we would join them...

Bailie Nicol Jarvie
40%. Eight-year-old. A blended Scotch whisky with a higher proportion of malt than most blends. Distilleries in the mix thought to include Caol Ila (unpeated), Ardbeg, North British and Glenmorangie, all blended with grain whisky.
Nose: Vanilla, honey, caramel.
Taste: Smooth, woody, sweetness, slight dryness, not too sweet.
I've had a bottle of this at home for a few months, and pull it out occasionally when a Scotch cocktail seems in order. Excellent value.

Compass Box Hedonism

43%. Average age 20 years. A 100% blended grain Scotch whisky, from Cameron Brig, Carsebridge and Cambus, aged in first-fill American oak casks.
Nose: Tropical, pine, cedar, Caramac chocolate, cherry, wood polish.
Taste: Sweet, chocolate, cherries, spicy, woody, toffee, with a long, dry finish.
From CB's Limited Release range, bottled only once or twice a year.


Ben Nevis, Adelphi Bottling

50.3% cask strength. 34-year-old (Distilled 1970, bottled 2005). Highland single cask blend.
Nose: Cola reduction, honey, rich, feet, solvent, Xmas tree (with a few drops of water you can add orange and fizzy sherbert).
Taste: Dry, tobacco, cigar, spicy, citrus, tannic.
This was an eccentric blend of new-make grain and new-make malt aged in the same cask for an awfully long time. There was nothing eccentric about the taste, though, which recalled an antique rye whiskey. Really quite rare, and refined, which goes some way to explaining the £130 price tag.

Ardbeg Serendipity
40%. Blended malt Scotch whisky (12-year-old Glen Moray with 25-year-old Ardbeg 1977).
Nose: Peat, pink grapefruit, banana, medicinal.
Taste: Almondy, burnt BBQ, salty.
Behind this whisky is a story of "a most serendipitous catastrophe" (cheers, Darren), which occurred when some Ardbeg 1977 was accidentally pumped into a vat still containing Glen Moray 12-year-old. The result was a blended malt Scotch whisky containing 20% Glen Moray and 80% Ardbeg. Lesser marketing machines may have cursed their luck; Ardbeg bottled the stuff and branded it as "the unforeseen but fortuitous union of two great single malts".

What struck me about blended whisky, following our evening of respectful indulgence, was that blending - done properly - makes perfect sense. Why trust nature to provide a perfect single cask, or confine a master distiller to mixing from his own limited stash, when you could let a knowledgeable whisky mixologist take a bit from here and a bit from there, before blending to perfection?

Thanks to Darren,
the Whisky Guy, for not only leading yet another great tasting session but also providing some pretty handy printouts, which also contained the following useful definitions:

Single Malt Scotch Whisky
A Scotch Whisky produced from only water and malted barley at a single distillery by batch distillation in pot stills.

Single Grain Scotch Whisky

A Scotch Whisky distilled at a single distillery but which, in addition to water and malted barley, may also be produced from whole grains of other malted or unmalted cereals.

Blended Scotch Whisky
A combination of one or more Single Malt Scotch Whiskies with one or more Single Grain Scotch Whiskies.

Blended Malt Scotch Whisky
A blend of two or more Single Malt Scotch Whiskies from different distilleries.

Blended Grain Scotch Whisky
A blend of two or more Single Grain Scotch Whiskies from different distilleries.

Finally, the Spooned Malt: Take a single malt whisky and add a teaspoon of a different whisky from another distillery, leaving you with a blend, which may no longer be described as a single malt from a named distillery. Such behaviour is apparently reassuring to distilleries when their wares are sold on to third parties.

Next time we've promised ourselves to keep things simple - you know, get some nice whisky in bottles and drink the stuff. No more definitions. Details on Whisky Squad #7 (October 7) to follow shortly, here.

Sunday, 12 September 2010

Bramble



Created by Dick Bradsell in London's Soho, in the nineteen-eighties, the Bramble marries gin, lemon and sweetness in a fruitier reinvention of the 19th century Gin Fix, or sour.

Bramble


60ml (2oz) gin

30ml (1oz) fresh lemon juice
15ml (0.5oz) simple syrup
15ml (0.5oz) Creme de Mure (blackberry liqueur)
Blackberries to garnish

Fill a tumbler with crushed ice, add gin, lemon and simply syrup and stir. Add more ice if required. Drizzle Creme de Mure on top and garnish with blackberries.


If you can be bothered with crushing ice (required for extra dilution) the Bramble is well worth a try. It's been described elsewhere as England's answer to the Cosmopolitan - but d
on't let that put you off.

Friday, 10 September 2010

Beers in America



A trip to Washington DC provided some good beer drinking at some friendly bars - many of which even served my beloved Blue Moon on tap. Great work.


Starting off with an Austrian, then. Urbock 23° (pictured top) is an amazing, and amazingly strong (9.6% abv), beer from a brewery called Schloss Eggenberg. Matured for nine months (as long as a human fetus) until golden brown, and luxuriously thick, it tasted of almonds and honey and biscuits and stuff, with a smooth finish. Excitingly, this one came from the cask, from a cute little pub called The Saloon.

From the same pub I swiftly downed a refreshing pint of Batch 19 (pictured left), described as a "pre-prohibition style lager". The beer, made by Coors from a newly discovered old recipe (supposedly), was hoppy for a lager, with only gentle bubbles.

Hades (below right) comes from the Denver-based Great Divide Brewing Company, producer of a brilliant rice ale called Samurai (more here). This one, bought in hip DC hangout Marvin, was a Belgian-style golden ale - spicy, hoppy, malty (nice).

Allagash White was "brewed with spices" in Portland, Maine. It was a hot evening, and I needed something on the lighter side, which the Allagash delivered: cloudy, wheaty and crisp.

Americans make more interesting lagers than us Brits. At least, that's my theory, evidenced by malty, refreshing beers like Trader Joe's Bohemian Lager (5%), which I sampled from the bottle.

Kennebunkport Blueberry Wheat Ale (below left) sounds daft, but the beer, with added "natural" fruit flavours, provided an enjoyably subtle blueberry twist to an otherwise bland bottle.

Having recently enjoyed Brooklyn Brewery's Black Chocolate Stout, I was intrigued to try its Brown Ale. This, as I recall, was substantial and malty, but still relatively gulpable - like an estranged younger brother - or perhaps distant nephew - of the more challenging Stout (which I tried again shortly afterwards).

Finally, and just to prove I don't like every beer out there, I have to mention my first tasting of a sour beer (intentionally sour, on purpose, that is). The 7.3% bottle of Petrus Aged Pale Ale was described in The Saloon's menu as a "very interesting representation of a Flemish sour ale style", which after being aged in oak for up to 30 months finished with a "classic sourness". I hated it - tasted like vinegar. Definitely interesting, though.

Before I finish, a question to any American readers out there - what's with the Belgian beer obsession? Why don't your bars stock more home-grown American ales? They're quite good, you know.


Finally-finally, a mini-rant about a supposedly exciting DC cocktail bar known as The Gibson. I say "supposedly", since despite having been put down on a list as VIPs (I know, I'm not sure why either) a group of us were denied entry for the crime of wearing sandals and/or shorts. Bear in mind this was August in DC, when temperatures - even at night - are high enough to make a cat cry. Bizarrely, the no-sandals-or-shorts rule apparently kicks in only after 10pm on Fridays and Saturdays, at which point clothing normally considered perfectly acceptable suddenly, inexplicably, becomes inappropriate. I really have no idea how such a miserably small-town attitude managed to insinuate itself into a reputedly decent bar in a major city. Note to management: stop being pricks. Or assholes, even.

Thursday, 9 September 2010

Slurpee



Back in the United States (where else?) I was introduced to one of the strangest drinks I've had in a while (since this one, possibly). The Slurpee, which is only available from 7-Eleven stores, sounds and looks fairly revolting, but for some reason it's just the thing on a scorching afternoon. It consists, as far as I can make out, of sugary-syrup flavouring, crushed ice and carbon dioxide. The fizziness is what makes it different, and good - they're incredibly refreshing once the temperature tips into the 30s. I went for a pina colada (non-alcoholic, clearly) with a splash of root beer (yes, mixing is acceptable). It was still a little too sweet for me, but I like what they were trying to do here.

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Girly Drink



Just as a monkey at a typewriter will eventually produce a readable sonnet, so my attempts to throw random leftover ingredients together will occasionally generate a drinkable cocktail. This was one of those occasions.

Girly Drink

60ml (2oz) peach schnapps

15ml (0.5oz) triple sec
60ml (2oz) Appletiser
7.5ml (0.25oz) lime juice
2 dashes orange bitters
180ml (6oz) soda water

Stir ingredients with ice in a tall glass.


Fruity and refreshing - like what girls like.

Sunday, 5 September 2010

Mongozo Coconut Beer


I know what you're thinking. But this is actually a tasty little drop. Mongozo is a line of "exotic" beers produced by Belgian brewery Huyghe on behalf of some Dutch company. This coconut bottle (3.6% abv) was picked up from a shop at the Eden Project in Cornwall, which gives a flavour of the brand's
ethos - Fairtrade all the way.

The beer's appearance, once poured into a glass, is whiteish-yellow, slightly darker than coconut water, and almost milky. Immediately, the coconut aroma is evident, sweet and slightly woody. To taste, there is a small amount of carbonation, as the coconut flavour explodes in the mouth, followed by a nicely hoppy beer-bite. It reminded me of a Snowball cocktail (Advocaat and lemonade), but more refreshing and less sickly sweet (although still sweet enough to ensure one's all you want).

Brewed with real coconut and Fairtrade organic quinua grain, the brew 
can be bought in the UK from websites like this one. Other flavours in the series are Quinua, Palmnut, Mango and Banana, all of which are said to make an fine accompaniment to "exotic dishes", whatever they might be.

Saturday, 4 September 2010

The Lonsdale



48 Lonsdale Road
Notting Hill
London
W11 2DE

I knew
The Lonsdale would become one of my favourite cocktail bars within 20 seconds of walking through the door. It was the giant, leather-bound drinks menu that did it. Containing more than 80 drinks recipes, described in detail, it was like a bible of booze (read it online here). This place cares about cocktails, I thought. I sympathized with our waitress who continued to hover as I set about absorbing the entire menu before making my choice. "Can I help you choose?" she begged. "Do you want something fruity?" she tried. In the end, I went for The Vesper, James Bond's twist on the martini, for which I later discovered The Lonsdale utilises Martin Miller's Gin from just down the road.

The menu, quoting directly from Ian Fleming's 1937 Bond adventure Casino Royale, described the recipe thus:


'A dry martini,' Bond said. 'One. In a deep champagne goblet.' 
'Oui, monsieur.' 
'Just a moment. Three measures of Gordon's, one vodka, half a measure of Kina Lillet. Shake it very well until it is ice cold, then add a large thin slice of lemon - peel. Got it?'
'Certainly, monsieur.' The barman seemed pleased with the idea.

The cocktail, it added, was "invented by Gilberto Preti for the author, at Duke's Hotel, London". It barely needs to be noted that such gems, such joyful pedantry, is to a drinks geek what a warm gun is to Mr Bond. The drink itself - my first conventional Vesper, as it happens (check out less ordinary Amsterdam Vespa here), was surprisingly smooth, with the gin preventing things from becoming vapid and the vodka keeping the drink from getting too botanical.

M went for a Rose Petal Martini, which was rather more prosaically described as Bombay Sapphire stirred with Lanique rose liqueur, lychee juice and Peychaud Bitters. "Beautiful and refined", said she, sounding increasingly like a drinks geek herself.

To finish, we shared a Fuego Manzana: Havana three year-old rum shaken with fresh Granny Smith apple, homemade chilli syrup and freshly squeezed lime juice (as designed by 
Danny Smith at Che, 2000). This was a moreish cocktail that refused to be branded "fruity" or "citrussy" or "sweet" or "fiery" but instead combined them all rather skilfully.

The Lonsdale is also a restaurant, apparently, but cocktail fans are welcome to come in for "just" a drink, with prices around the £8 mark. It's t
he best thing about west London by a long way.

Friday, 3 September 2010

Frambellini



The traditional Bellini cocktail, invented in Venice in 1934, involves fizzy wine and peach puree, chilled and stirred. But raspberries are at least as good as peaches, so take some sparkling wine and add some blended raspberries instead. I call it the Frambellini. The conventional Bellini recipe suggested one part puree to two parts wine. The one pictured above used just a dash or two of fruit, topped up with bubbles. It depends what you're after: a boozy fruit drink or a glass of bubbly with a hint of fruit. The choice is yours.

Thursday, 2 September 2010

Glenmorangie



While we're on the subject of summer whiskies, I thought I'd add my own personal recommendation for an August (er, early September) malt. In recent months, since getting into whisky slightly more seriously than before, I've returned to some of my former go-to drams and been subsequently underwhelmed (the perennial downside of acquiring a taste for finer things). One such whisky that remains a favourite, however, is Glenmorangie (the "morange" should rhyme with "orange", apparently).

The basic 10-year-old, "original" expression describes itself as "elegant and floral", which it is; a prime candidate for a summer malt. It goes on with "flavours of honeyed sweetness fused with notes of citrus, vanilla and almonds, making it delicate, alluring and very complex". I'm not sure about "complex" (what's wrong with simple goodness anyway?) but the rest is enough. I will caution: I haven't tried drinking this Highland malt alongside some of my recently acquired, spendier whiskies - but I don't plan to. Sip it by itself, as the sun goes down, and think of Scotland.

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Purl



50/54 Blandford Street
Marylebone
London
W1U 7HZ

Purl, a newish bar in west London, is a subterranean speakeasy that makes fancy drinks like you wouldn't believe. Plunging into its cavernous innards reveals a warren of cosy roomlets and alcoves that surely represent the best bits of the dark side. The cocktails here are truly works of art. Pictured above is a 
Mr Hyde's Fixer Upper, a "devilish elixir of Ron Zacapa 23 [rum], Cola reduction and orange bitters, served in a smoke injected, wax sealed potion bottle". Once the dry ice has subsided a little and you pull out the bottle, it looks like this:


The taste was as luxurious as you would expect: a ridiculous menage of liquid-silk rum, caramel-sweetness and a hint of citrus, all lightly smoked, like an antique leather armchair.

M opted for Champagne & Caviar, which was "Tiny balls of homemade mango and pine caviar, bouncing around a glass of Veuve Clicquot Brut with orange and mandarin bubbles".


This was a playful drink, with the caviar (made of I-don't-know-what - presumably some kind of gum and fruit) providing bursts of mango in the mouth, and a smudge of gel smeared on the base of the glass 
giving the champagne a citrus twist.

These drinks were as expensive as they were phenomenal (£10 each - the most I've ever paid for a cocktail), but I'd sooner have one drink at Purl than two at plenty of other bars I've had the misfortune to enter. One small quibble: handed a tiny printed paper menu on arrival, I was told its illegibility (due to booze-based smudging and running of ink) was intentional, part of the character of the place. I refuse to believe this. Management should invest in some proper drinks lists.

Next time - and I dearly hope there will be one - I plan to try The Street Urchin: "Four Roses Yellow Label, pear puree, citrus, cardamom bitters, bottled and bagged with a Doom Bar spritz."