Now, both of us at Whisky for Everyone love a good cocktail so when the London Cocktail Week was launched yesterday, we decided to join in and see what we could learn and which nice bars we could find! The event runs until Sunday 17 October, culminating in the annual RumFest show which is this year being held at Kensington Olympia.
London Cocktail Week seems to have something for everyone who is interested in cocktails and spirits - branded seminars and tastings covering all genres of spirits, the chance to meet some of the producers and top mixologists, evening social events, tutored classes for beginners and professionals alike and the chance to savour special cocktails in some of London's finest bars, some of which are opening their doors to non-members for the first time. Approximately 75 of the capital's bars are producing special themed cocktails and these are being charged at £4 each for the duration of the Cocktail Week. However, to qualify for this price, you must have one of the event's special pre-ordered wristbands. So, last night we went off and collected our wristbands and went in search of some good cocktails ... as we did so, we said to each other "this is going to be a long week!"
We decided to begin the week by trying some previously unvisited bars in the Fitzrovia area to the north of Oxford Street - we limited ourselves to three bars, as it was a Monday night after all! First up was Market Place which is a stone's throw from Oxford Circus. This is a compact bar with wooden planks on the walls and plenty of outside space. They also have a basement bar that has DJs on most nights. Their regular cocktail list is concise and interesting, but we were there for their £4 London Cocktail Week special - the Louisiana Jam. This was made with an intriguing mix of Southern Comfort whiskey liqueur, lemon and apple juice, apricot jam and mint leaves, mixed with crushed ice in a mojito style. After initially thinking that this would be too sweet, it turned out to be delicious and refreshing with the jam adding great fruitiness.
Next, we moved on to La Perla, a Mexican style tequila bar and restaurant in Charlotte Street. The ground floor houses the main restaurant area and the main bar is in the basement. La Perla has won many awards for their large tequila selection and cocktails, so we were looking forward to this one having previously been to the Covent Garden branch. They had two tequila based cocktails, created for London Cocktail Week - the Puro Mexico and the Mexican Passion Mojito. The Puro Mexico was made using Ocho blanco 2010 vintage tequila, lime juice, agave nectar and topped up with a sparkling white Mexican wine, served in a champagne style flute. The Mexican Passion Mojito contained Tapatio blanco tequila, fresh passion fruit, mint and agave nectar and was served over crushed ice in a tumbler. Our preference was the mojito, with the sharpness of the passion fruit really working well with the other ingredients.
Finally, we moved on to Bam-Bou - a south east Asian restaurant and bar set across four floors of a splendid looking Georgian townhouse on Percy Street. We made our way up the winding flights of stairs to The Red Bar on the top floor and made ourselves comfortable on the leather chairs. Out of the window, we saw the famous BT Tower lit up and we thought "we have saved the best until last haven't we?" The three £4 cocktails on offer were the most original of the night by far, had been created especially for London Cocktail Week and all had an Oriental theme.
The three cocktails were the Rose of the Orient (an inventive combination of Grey Goose vodka, green tea, flower petals and agave syrup), the Naughty Kaffir (Bombay Sapphire gin, coconut water, lemon, kaffir lime and a maraschino cherry) and the Birdy (Grey Goose vodka, smoked Rooibos red tea and fresh black cherries). We opted for one Naughty Kaffir (pictured in the foreground) and one Birdy (pictured in the background). They were served in a chilled martini glass. Both were divine. Both were expertly made. Both were unlike any other cocktail we had ever tried. The combinations of flavours were so unusual but worked superbly well in both cases.
We then spotted an interesting whisky cocktail on their innovative cocktail list - the Tiramisu Martini. It combined two of our favourite words in one glass, so we just had to try it! It was made using Whyte & Mackay blended whisky, Maker's Mark bourbon, Baileys, a shot of espresso coffee, cream and a dusting of cocoa and cinnamon. This cocktail was rich but very good, although we both preferred the two lighter, fresher original choices. We thank Alberto, the Restaurant Manager and Pawel, the maker of these excellent cocktails, for taking the time to talk with us and for giving us such an enjoyable experience. We will definitely be visiting Bam-Bou again.