Sometimes a little self-deception is a harmless thing. After a few mediocre old fashioneds at some cocktail places around London, I thought, “How hard can it be?”. I know a thing or two about whisky, bourbon is a small jump from there, and as far as cocktails go, old fashioneds shouldn’t be too taxing. So after a couple of rather enjoyable weeks, I settled on a recipe I liked and was rather pleased with my efforts in churning out this beverage.
As I said, self-deception isn’t really a problem….until you realise it. Sadly, my personal epiphany came on Monday night at 26 Kingly street, Soho as part of the From Still to Bar series run by the WSET, where I was served an old fashioned that made me realise that my attempts amounted to little more than stirring orange juice into whisky and pouring it into a nice glass.
The blow, although severe, was thankfully lessened by the fact that the drink in question, and the Sazerac that followed were quite excellent.
The evening was put together by the wine and spirit education trust as the final chapter of a three-part series that has run this year, in which a spirit has been put under the spotlight in an attempt to share some knowledge with a wider audience.
Tastefully done, the event consists of the sampling of three very different whiskies. After trying them, and listening to a short speech via an iPod from Will Lowe of the Cambridge Distillery, the bar staff – who deserve a good deal of credit for the quality of the evening’s drinks – will then make each customer a cocktail using whichever of the whiskies they prefer.
What’s on offer feels quite unique, as to taste a spirit in its pure form, identify its characteristics, then to see how they can be modified, adapted or highlighted into a cocktail really makes you think about your choice of spirit in cocktail making, in a way the consumer is perhaps not usually challenged to do.
The tasting is available any time the restaurant is open, but a word of advice would be to head there early and sample what’s on offer in place of pre-dinner drinks whilst sat at the bar, so you can watch the bar staff making your cocktail and pester them as to exactly what they’re doing – they seemed only too happy to oblige.