November Round-up

The weather might be crap and the nights are undeniably longer but who’s complaining when there are so many quality drinking opportunities around? We did a tequila lunch at Paramount, rum launch at Shoreditch House, sparkling vodka in Soho and all kinds of spirits in London Bridge. We even managed tea at The Ritz with Desmond Payne…

Scorpio season and a month before Christmas, it was always going to be a busy one. The month kicked off at Vivat Bacchus in London Bridge sampling some very fine wines from Paul Cluver’s estate in sunny South Africa. God, they were good, each one better than the last. If you want to score brownie points for being the perfect dinner party guest, proffer up a bottle of the Pinot Noir 2006 or the fabulous Gewurztraminer to your hosts, they’ll think you’re the business.

That wasn’t the only time we visited London Bridge. We rocked up a few days later for our next jaunt, an educational drinks experience at Vinopolis. Let’s pause for a moment here to say it’s a funny old place is Vinopolis. There’s something about the layout that makes you think it’s been designed to educate children. Circa 1972. The trouble is of course, children aren’t allowed in. What you get instead are groups of adults, probably on a teambuilding exercise, more interested in sampling the drinks on offer than finding out the facts. Which is a shame as there really is a lot to learn here – they just need to present it in a more engaging fashion. Hey Vinopolis, we’re here to help when you need us…

We went for the Spirit Of Vinopolis experience. How apt that description is… For the paltry sum of £27.50, the ticket entitles you to five wine tastings in addition to a How To Taste Wine session. But that’s not all folks, you also get to taste two whiskies, two absinthes, two Bombay Sapphire cocktails and three rums. Each. Before you go thinking we’re complete alcofrolics, we have to say that the tastings are incredibly wee. Even so, our heads were spinning ever-so slightly by the time we left. Oh, we didn’t mention that our ticket also included two beers but as we passed these on to a couple of thirsty looking visitors we don’t think that counts.

And on The Cocktail Lovers adventures continue… One of our favourite launches this month was hosted by Gran Patron Tequila. Naturally, we RSVP’d the minute our invite pinged through our mail box. Does that seem overly eager? Probably but for once we weren’t ashamed to be super keen. We felt incredibly privileged to get an opportunity to hang out with Francisco Alcaraz, Master Distiller & Blender at Patron for forty years, and the fact that the company were launching their new Gran Patron Burdeos tequila was an added bonus. Plus it meant we would get an early snoop around the amazing Paramount members club ahead of its official opening, so can you understand why we didn’t hold back?

Francisco was an absolute gem, very cool dude-like, guiding us through a tutored tasting of the Gran Patron’s delicious tequilas. Despite the fact that the Silver was sublime and the Platinum was perfection, the silky smooth Burdeos was undeniably the star of the show. As it should be given the work that goes into it. Consider this: it takes sixty pairs of hands to make each bottle of this triple-distilled superior spirit. The unique flavour is the result of blending American and French oak barrels aged for a minimum of 12 months. Then the liquid is distilled again and racked in vintage barrels from Bordeaux, lovingly selected by hand. Each unleaded crystal bottle is nestled in suede and presented in a handcrafted box. Yours for the princely sum of £400+.

And what of Paramount, the exclusive club housed at the top of Centrepoint? Put it this way, we would have barricaded ourselves in the loo if we thought we’d get away with it. Luckily sanity took over and we left with our dignity (although sadly not our desire) in tact. We owe it to ourselves to pay it a repeat visit, those wraparound views sure take some beating.

The month continued in fine style with a one-on-one with Don Jose Navarro, premier Maestro Ronero at Havana Club. Oh yes, we only talk to the best… The Don treated us to a tutored tasting, guiding us through the individual characteristics of the excellent rums in the Havana Club stable. What an honour to hear from the big man himself about the delights of these wonderful rums. From our private room at funky east London fave, Shoreditch House we started with Havana Anejo Blanco, moved on to the Anejo Especial, then on to a 7 Anos. This was all to tease and tempt the tongue in preparation for the latest member to the family, Cuban Barrel Proof. Yum, yum, yum. We then compared it to the delicious Extra Anejo before moving on to a couple of expertly mixed daiquiris. Oh come on, how could we possibly refuse?

Sparkling vodka anyone? Yes, you heard right, vodka gets fizzical thanks to Swedish company Camitz. We weren’t sure what to make of it when we received our invite but we sure as hell wanted to give it a try.

So, does it work? Surprisingly, the answer is a big yes. Camitz adds a fresh new twist to your classic vodka cocktails – imagine a softer version of the Cosmo or a Vodka Martini, then add bubbles. Not your aggressive type mind, these ones are big, soft, rounded and very gentle. It might appeal to girls more than guys but we certainly urge you to try it before you judge. Like us, you might be very pleasantly surprised.

Our last alcoholic excursion took us to The East Room, reminding us that we need to go back there to do a review. We love this place. The décor is fab, the mood just right and even though they make a big thing about the wines stored in their ergomatic systems, they serve up a pretty mean cocktail. More coming soon.

For now though we’ll focus on our reason for visiting this month which was to try out the latest Hanger One vodka. Have you tried Hanger One? Either in its original form or cleverly infused with Mandarin Blossom, Kaffir Lime or Fraser River Raspberry? If you have, you’ll know this is a superior brand – a far cry from the flavoured vodkas you can pop in your trolley in Tesco’s. This one sits proudly in the niche section of the market, selling for £50 a bottle at Harvey Nicks. Using real fruit and hand-operated stills the company only make very small batches of their seasonal vodkas, adding a new one to the portfolio each year. The latest one is Spiced Pear – very apt for Christmas and the good news is, it’s an amazing drink.

Lastly, we shunned the liquor in favour of a slap-up tea at the Ritz with one of our favourite people in the drinks business, Desmond Payne. We hadn’t seen him since the Beefeater 24 launch and wanted to ask him all about the inspiration behind his new baby. And what better place to do it than this quintessentially British hotel and what better drink to mull over other than tea, the botanic force behind of the new spirit of Beefeater? Read what he had to say…

Words to the wise (or just plain curious)

“If drinking is interfering with your work, you’re probably a heavy drinker. If work is interfering with your drinking, you’re probably an alcoholic.”

Author Unknown.

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