London Cocktail Society – Christmas Party @ Callooh Callay

Despite only being a few months old, the London Cocktail Society is already doing rather well. With visits to 69 Colebrooke Row, Callooh Callay and the Sipsmith Distillery under their belts Mark, Emma and Kate decided to go for a big Christmas do, and they did really rather well. The nice folk at Callooh Callay offered to host and the guestlist filled up quickly, making sure that the bar was rather full from shortly after opening time last Monday.

Along with some mulled wine bubbling away on the bar and this month’s cocktail list there was also Andrea Montague mixing custom cocktails from questionnaires on drinkers’ tastes upstairs, a drink swap shop, a raffle and a cocktail making competition. The raffle is yet to be drawn, but it was for one of the Sacred Gin blending kits, with 6 bottles of spirits made with individual botanicals allowing you to build your own gin, in return for listing you 3 favourite gins, ready for an upcoming LCS event. At £85 the sets are a bit pricey but rather tempting and I still have my fingers crossed for my name to come out of the hat.

baconI brought a few things along for the swap shop, clearing out most of my experiment shelf in a dual ‘making space’ and ‘trying to get advice’ exercise. I took along some fairly unsuccessful horseradish vodka (that had gone turnipy over time) and liquorice vodka (that had lost most of its sweetness) as well as my grenadine from the other week and some very nice strawberry ratafia (that I will one day get around to writing up), the latter of which went down well with David Smith of Summer Fruit Cup. Of the other things on the table I was impressed by David’s Christmas Liqueur (which has led to me having a jar of mincemeat vodka maturing in the kitchen) and a few of the stranger infusions – an over the top tobacco bourbon and some bacon vodka being the ones that I can still remember. There were also a pair of bottles of damson gin from The Charles Lamb and 69 Colebrooke Row, showing a rather big difference in flavour (as you’d expect from one made traditionally and one in a lab) with the former being big and thick and the latter more refined and astringent. I rather liked the Charles Lamb’s…

IMG_1013The cocktail competition filled out the middle of the evening, with 6 teams competing in Ready, Steady, Shake – a Ready, Steady, Cook-alike where each team was given a box of ingredients and was asked to put together a cocktail in a few minutes. I teamed up with David and Clayton Hartley of the Institute of Alcoholic Experimentation, and we were promptly presented with a box containing a variety of things including an egg and some rocket pesto. We avoided the egg but made a fruity summer bloody mary, with lemon, lime, grapefruit and tomato juice, chilli pepper and a spoon of the pesto muddled and served over ice in a tall glass with a sage rubbed-rim, garnished with strawberries and sage. It was a bit too savoury in the end, with Clayton suggesting that muddling a few strawberries in the mix might have helped, but we still came a respectable third overall. We may have got extra points for using pretty much everything from our box (apart from the egg) but we were lucky not to be the team that got a tin of cat food (which was left, predictably, unused). The winning cocktail, The Narnia (with long and flowery description by Ryan Alexander), worked rather a lot better – 1 part lime and 2 parts gin muddled with mint, stirred with 1/2 a part nettle cordial, 1/2 a part maraschino, served in a tall glass over ice, topped with soda and agave syrup to taste and garnished with thyme.

All in all a rather good night and hopefully a taste of things to come. There seem to be plans for the next few months fomenting already and I’ll certainly be dragging myself along whenever I can.

Sacred Gin Blending Kits
Gin elements, 6 x 20cl at 40%. ~£85 from Sacred Gin.

Many thanks to the lovely organisers of the LCS, Callooh Callay, and Alex Kammerling, Giles Looker and Rebekah Dooley for both judging the competition and being so nice to our cocktail. Also, thanks to the various sponsors of bits and pieces in the goodie bag – I will hopefully have something appearing soon about the wonders of Fever Tree Mediterannean tonic water (made to go with vodka? Heresy!) and also have some Hayman’s Gin and Chase Vodka to tuck into, along with money off vouchers from Gerry’s of Soho and The Loft in Clapham. Keep an eye on the LCS website for an announcement of next month’s adventures…

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