On the downside September signals it’s nearly winter (boo!) On the plus-side it means not long to go until London Cocktail Week (hurrah!) And to prime your palate for that there’s Cocktails in the City.
A Bloody Mary with peas? A cocktail that combines Snow Queen Vodka and chicken stock? Surely you can’t be serious. What happened to a simple Martini?
Well sorry, sometimes we cocktail lovers want something a bit different. If you’ve got the knack for combining barmy ingredients into a brilliant libation, then do it – and do it well!
Do you hate it when you get to the end of the drink and all you’ve got left are watery dregs? Or when a Mojito is just a tad too sour for your taste buds? Fear not when sipping at White Lyan the creators have done away with ice and citrus in their quest to find the perfectly balanced cocktail.
Since opening just over a years ago, the creative team at Hutong have proved they’re not just reliant on breathtaking scenery, consequently, they’ve established a firm following for their inventive cocktails based on elements of Chinese medicine.
But there’s no resting on laurels here – bars manager Myles Donneky and new Hutong bar manager Filippo Testa are determined to push boundaries in a quest for superior drinks. Hence the recent overhaul of the cocktail list – with some very unique additions.
‘Bing Cha’ means ‘iced tea’, and this is the theme of the first page of libations, since tea-houses are more popular in Chinese culture than trendy coffee places and handlebar moustaches are in East London. Each leaf has a specific character, and so plays differently on the palate – vital to consider and respect when mixing with alcohol.
Working closely with the First Lady of Tea, Henrietta Lovell from The Rare Tea Company, Myles and Filipo have carefully considered which spirits would match the nuances of each individual leaf. The result? A list of four wonderfully enticing fusions combining the best of Chinese flavours.
And there’s an aesthetic treat to the proceedings, too. When the cocktails arrive they are presented in beautiful, heavy Chinese teapots, plump and round like a Buddha belly and emitting such glorious little jets of steam that you expect them to be whistling.
Wait, steam? Isn’t this iced tea?
Never fear, this is part of the presentation. Each concoction is served over dry ice which makes for a real spectacle when the drink is being poured into the little traditional Chinese cups.
So what innovative combinations are we presented with? Well, for starters there’s the Fujian Breeze, which includes white silver tip tea, Hendricks Gin, Fernet Branca and mint. This is one of the most delicate of teas, with a grassy freshness that is evident in the taste. There’s a gentle medicinal quality that finishes with a zing of mint on the tongue. It makes for a perfect palate cleanser (for more cocktails, naturally.)
The Moli Hua is a more perfumed offering, balancing the floral jasmine tea with vodka, egg white and peach bitters – it’s this last ingredient that makes for a real fragrant, fruity treat. The Keemun Guo meanwhile is a mix of lychee liqueur, Grand Marnier and oranges with Keemun tea. The smoky black leaf and zesty orange gives it a lovely rounded sensation and zingy freshness.
Finally, we tried the Shuanglong which, if we had to choose, was our favourite. The woody Oolong tea combined with three different whiskies, honey and Chinese chives make for a sweet and smokey, yet delicate cocktail.
These drinks are all beautifully considered, delicious, and so gosh darn fresh and tasty, if you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to try a soothing cocktail then Bing Cha are the way to go.
And let’s not forget the remaining creations on the cocktail menu. For those wanting a twist on classics there’s the Red Snapper, and we can heartily recommend the Hutong Julep, bourbon, blood orange and goji berries for a balance of sweet earthiness. If a well made Cosmo tickles your fancy, there’s the Red Phoenix – cachaça infused with tamarind and mandarin juice for an extra kick.
Another favourite is the Jade Emperor, a knock-out cocktail that combines ginseng spirit, Midori and Chinese five spice for a satisfying, complex and delicious drink.
The new menu at Hutong manages to be creative and innovative without losing sight of what a good cocktail should be: a glorious combination of flavours that make your taste buds cheer.
As themed establishments go, this one is new on us – a subterranean space that holds the title of being the only stained-glass window bar in London. Enjoy thoroughly unique and artisan libations while admiring the hand-crafted tiles, church candles and complimentary wine and wafers that give Communion its name.