Gin on Monday night, followed by rum the following Monday - my "no drinking Sunday to Wednesday" has gone out the window in the last few weeks, but for good reason...!
It started with an invite to taste gin brand The King of Soho at Italian restaurant Mele e Pere in Soho. The gin is named after Paul Raymond, who was the King of Soho - an entertainment and property tycoon from the 1950s who ruled and transformed Soho, opening venues, running clubs and theatres and keeping the creative and artistic spirit of the area alive. Raymond's son Howard decided to take the unique qualities of Soho and create a drinks brand that paid homage to his father. The King of Soho gin is an authentic London dry gin distilled in small batches in a distillery in the centre of London using traditional methods, and 12 botanicals, including grapefruit peel, sweet orange, juniper, coriander, angelica and cassia bark (the other six botanicals are a secret) that give it its citrusy, smooth flavour.

We road tested the gin in various guises of cocktails which included The Martinez - two thirds red vermouth (Mele e Pere has a vermouth bar in the basement) and one third King of Soho gin, this was a strong, yet sweet and citrusy cocktail. Very refreshing but probably best to only have one of these on a Monday night!
Mele e Pere provided delicious snacks to keep our stomachs lined as we powered on through the cocktail list. We had deep fried, nduja stuffed olives (heaven), parma ham and doughy pillows, and calamari with tartare sauce - all of which feature on their regular food menu.

The next cocktail to sample was the gimlet, made with roses cordial, Black Down Sussex bianco vermouth and King of Soho gin. This was slightly bitter, but delicious, with a squeeze of orange oil from the peel on the rim of the glass.
The final gin cocktail was a very seasonal one - Remember, Remember - toffee sauce, apple juice, King of Soho gin and lemon juice, like a pudding in a glass. Here's the recipe if you want to make it at home.

50ml King of Soho Gin
60ml Pressed Apple Juice
20ml Toffee Sauce
10ml Lemon Juice

Shake very well and strain into a tall glass filled with ice and garnish with slices of apple. You could add a dash of cinnamon to this to make it really Christmassy.

My second Monday night of drinking took place at Gordon Ramsay's Heddon Street Kitchen, on the other side of Regent Street from the previous Monday. Heddon Street Kitchen is a beautiful, sleek restaurant - it's huge, with a staircase towards the back of the room that leads to a more private feeling first floor, where there's a bar and more restaurant seating.

We were there to learn about and taste Angostura rum, the world's most highly awarded rum brand, that hails from Venezuela, but is now produced in Trinidad in the Caribbean. To be honest I was more familiar with the well known Angostura Bitters than their rum before last Monday. The bitters was created in 1824 in Venezuela as a medicine, with the recipe remaining the same to this day, and not one single person in the world knowing the exact recipe - there are five people who know different parts of the recipe, and so precious are they that they aren't even allowed to travel together! The written recipe is stored in five vaults, in five banks in five different countries! The bitters was originally used to treat stomach problems, and is also known to an excellent mosquito repellent, a cure for indigestion and for hiccups - add a dash to a slice of lime and bite into it, and apparently your hiccups will be gone! The bitters first became used in cocktails by British soldiers who used to dock ships in South America and bring it back with them, along with gin, which they added the bitters to, to create nice drinks. This was further developed during the prohibition era in the States, as the bitters, despite being 40% abv, wasn't classed as alcohol, so was imported to America and added to Old Fashioneds and Manhattans. The bitters tempers acidity so is great for using in cocktails.

However, it was the rum we were there to try. Something else I learnt at Heddon Street Kitchen is that rum matures three times faster than whiskey, as it's made and kept in a warmer environment (the Caribbean vs Scotland). So a 10 year aged rum is equivalent to a 30 year aged whiskey in terms of taste and flavours. Angostura rum is made with top quality sugar cane juice that is then distilled to make molasses which are aged in American white oak barrels which have been used once previously to make bourbon whisky. They have a range of five rums: White rum, Angostura 5, Angostura 7, Angostura 1919 and Angostura 1824. The essence of Angostura rum includes smells and tastes of coconut, vanilla, caramel, bananas, spice, chocolate, lemon and roasted nuts, with each variety of rum having a tilt towards one of these in particular. The Angostura 7, for example, is defined by a chocolatey, smoky smell, which gives it a mellow, smooth flavour.

If you're a rum fan, and haven't already tried Angostura, then definitely give it a go. It's great for cocktails like Mai Tais, and daiquiris, and also excellent with ginger beer and a squeeze of lime - my personal favourite.


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