It’s Monday October 17th and I find myself in London.
I LOVE London. A city that boasts Victorian superiority, built on an Empire surviving on cosmopolitan values and an extremely fast pace of life. It also has some of the best bars in the world and a cocktail culture that is years ahead of everyone else.
So come with me on a Whisky Adventure in real-time as I hopefully remember to update this post!
Yesterday evening was so much fun. I came to realise that real time updates were not possible due to my iPhone’s terrible battery life, so I’ve decided to recall everything the morning after. Anything I’ve forgotten probably needed forgotten, and definitely didn’t need published…
I was whisked from my hotel just across from St. Pancras at around 6pm by a couple of fellow Adventurers as we made plans to see the sights.
Patsy Christie is one of Mixxit
UK’s mixologists, travelling up and down the country teaching people how to make brilliant libations (The Laphroaig Sour
recipe was from Patsy’s masterful mixing mind.) John Clay
is the brand ambassador for Bols, covering their entire liqueur range as well as Bols Genever. There was no chance of this evening being boring!
Their initial thoughts were to hit all of the upscale world class cocktail establishments, however, without any prior warning of this, coupled with the strict dress code these places enforce, there was no chance I was getting in dressed LIKE THAT! (Was how Patsy put it…)
Therefore we headed for the tube as our Adventure became more and more sporadic. Just the way I like it!
Hopping off at Leicester Square we took a quick walk past Trafalgar Square and Nelson’s Column, (turns out Nelson Mandela was in the navy, who would have thunk it?) and down towards Embankment where I fell in love…
…with a bar.
Gordon’s Wine Bar
is the oldest Wine Bar in the city and occupies the basement of an old shop. Toilets on the ground floor, and a staircase leading down to what can only be described as a magical portal into Spain. The old vaulted ceiling of the basement hangs low over the sporadically scattered table and wine barriques acting as tables. Candles light the room and a huge buffet fills up one corner. Then just sitting like part of the furniture, is the bar itself.
With one of the best wine lists
in the city, it’s no surprise that Gordon’s is packed on a Monday night. But I had come for something better.
Gordon’s was started in 1890 on Villiers Street. It was owned by the Gordon family, famous sherry importers, and still to this day they sell blended sherry from their own barrels! How close this blending process is to the way it was done in the 19th century we’ll never know, but I love the fact that there is a bar in the UK that has three different sherries on tap described simply as dry, medium and sweet or Fino, Amontillado and Oloroso. I said back in 2008 when I was in Jerez, that sherry would have it’s day again, and it looks like it’s finally happening. If the uncool fortified wine can fill a bar on a Monday night in London, then it’s only a matter of time before the rest of the world catch on!
We tried each of the casked sherries, the Amontillado the favourite with it’s lovely nutty finish, then decided we had better get something to eat.
It turns out that something to eat in present company meant something fruity, it meant a Bloody Mary.
We headed from the oldest wine bar in London to the oldest continuously running restaurant in London: Rules
. This place had charm. A doorman stood outside in a fantastic hat and tails, the red leather seats looked so comfortable through the window. This looked like a place where a man could get a good steak. It also looked like the kind of place that can mix up a great Martini.
We headed up the long carpeted staircase to the upper levels. Our Adventuring crew must have liked where we were headed, as our ranks swelled by three. Step up Bryant Mao the sommelier at Chez Bruce
an extremely high end Michelin star restaurant in Wandsworth Common, enter Jonathon Thompson Master of Malt’s
IT guy and Ron Jeremy’s chaperone and last but not least, welcome to Rebecca Asseline, the brand ambassador for Courvoisier
in the UK.
Two Brand Ambassadors, a mixologist, a sommelier and a whisky expert walk into a bar…
…here’s what happened:
With our new found crew we sat at the wood, and let Brian Silva work his magic. This is one of the best mixologists on the planet. All 5 of us were in awe at his creations and we fell in love with his charm, his attention to detail and incredible sense of humour. Here are a few creations we sipped upon, every one of them one of Brian’s Originals:
First off I asked for something with Scotch Whisky (I’m so predictable) with a bit of smoke. Brian served up this:
A libation called the Islay Maiden involving the following ingredients:
and a spray of Jura 5 year old spirit to bring it together. Wonderful.
While I was enjoying the Maiden, Patsy was supping on an incredible Bloody Mary, John had something Genever based, Rebecca had something with princess dust in it, a bramble infused Manhattan was doing the rounds, a Naughty Mac had been served up (a twist in a whisky mac with King’s Ginger and Naked Grouse) and Jonathon had asked for an Irish Whisky based drink (predictability again). The Irish Whisky was served from a 1960’s Jameson bottle that Brian keeps topped up.
The star of the show though, was Bryant’s Postmodern Whisky Sour. Fun, colourful and most importantly extremely tasty! Balanced perfectly, this was a great drink involving the bartenders greatest adversary, Midouri!
Brian managed to bring us all into his world at Rules and break every single convention we thought that the bartending world had. He entertained us, kept us topped up, listened to our stories, shared his own and most importantly taught us that the only thing you need to decide about the contents of any glass is whether you like it or not. A man after my own heart!
Here are some snaps of the incredible journeys our palates took at Rules:
With such an incredible Mixologist in front of us, I couldn’t help but ask him about his take on the industry and how things seem to be heading. My first question was about managing his back bar. How does a man with such a great reputation decide what goes on his back bar? His answer was simple and profound: “Whatever doesn’t get used, doesn’t stay.” If he can work with it, then he will.
After seeing Brian chip and carve the ice for our drinks by hand we asked about the new fashion regarding ice balls and ice diamonds. He said he loves it if it helps the drink. Diamonds are too time consuming, ice balls are fun, he likes big random-shaped blocks as they keep his drinks chilled for longer, and he doesn’t need to faff about with them.
After the grilling and the need for real actual food, we said goodbye to Brian, but not before taking a tour of his bar. Rules has lamps from the original Playboy Club in London, as well as a mural saved from the Savoy and completed around the room by the owner of Rules. Ending at a secret door with a wonderful painting of the end of the hunt:
This picture doesn’t do it justice. But we learn that the Hunter got his prey, while the fox got away. Magical!
After Rules we headed up Tavistock Street to a tavern called Opera
. John and Jonathon left us at this point, and my iPhone died, so no photos I’m afraid. What I will say though, is that the Fois Grais burger was to die for! After some bites and wine we called it a night and jumped in a black cab, ready for the happy ride back to the hotel.
Stay tuned for day 2!