October 9, 2008

Drinks on the Road: U.K. Drinks: Part Two

Much like it’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day busy-ness of work and then put off a blog post for a week plus, a post that you’ve been meaning to write every day (but then the corporate hive masters crack their electronic whips over you like you’re a sled dog pulling their dollar-making sled along until you just can’t take it anymore and end up constructing an example like this one, with mixed metaphors and long clauses that go on like a particularly annoying work day), much like this in a really small way is how it’s easy to get caught up in the vast array of ciders and beers available in the smaller towns in the U.K., and forget that there are some tip top cocktail slingers there, too, and that London has a sparkling array of cocktail spots. Whew, after that sentence we all need a drink. If you’re reading this in London, I suggest you find that drink at the Lonsdale, which is the focus of U.K. Drinks: Part Two (if you missed Part One, follow the link or scroll on down).


I was taken to the bar by cocktail-loving pals Ean and Reba (also known as Tales from the Birdbath), and accompanied by them and wife Natalie, but was given the suggestion of the Lonsdale as a tight cocktail spot by the fine writing-publishing folks Jared Brown and Anistatia R. Miller (who are also co-founders of the Museum of the American Cocktail). As a quick aside, if you haven’t picked up Mixologist: The Journal of the American Cocktail Volume I and Volume II, which they published, edited, and contributed to, then I’m not sure you can call yourself a cocktail lover, as these collections are bubbling over with essays from today’s top cocktailians about topics sure to wet your literary whistle. They’re also the authors of a range of books (from Champagne Cocktails to Shaken Not Stirred: A Celebration of the Martini). What I’m trying to get to in my roundabout way is that if they’re nice enough to suggest a spot for cocktails, it’s going to be reliably awesome. Which the Lonsdale was. The crowd may have been a bit stock-brokerish, and have wondered at my Mighty Boosh buttons, but the wait staff was sweet and the drinks were fantastic. I started with what I thought was a fairly under-utilized early-part-of-last-century-ish cocktail that I wasn’t sure was being poured today anywhere outside of my garage (I’d never had it outside of my garage at least. I had it first there when putting together Good Spirits), the Whizz Bang. From the Lonsdale’s in-depth and multi-page menu, I learned the drink was invented by Tommy Burton in 1920 at the Sport’s Club of London (I knew it was named after high-velocity shells in the war, due to the sounds they made).  Here’s the picture (it was dark in there, so the photos aren’t the best) and the recipe.


Ice cubes

1-3/4 ounces Baillie Nicol Jarvie Scotch

3/4 ounce Noilly Prat Dry Vermouth

1/4ish ounce absinthe

1/4ish ounce pomegranate syrup

1 dashes orange bitters


1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Add everything. Shake well. Strain. Serve.


In the past, I’d made my Whizz Bangs with bourbon and Pernod instead of scotch and absinthe (due to necessity until recently on the latter). But the scotch here gave it a polite backbone and light smoky undertone. It may have been one of the best drinks I’ve had out (okay, take this with a grain of “I’m given to large pronouncements and going overboard about oodles of things,” but wow, it was delish), with the balance of flavors and hints of absinthe peeking through like the last rays of sunlight before dusk.


This may seem like an odd move for a cocktailing evening, but for my second drink I went for a Pisco Sour. After the knock out success of the Whizz Bang, I thought it’d be fun to get a more recognized classic, and see how the bartenders (who, sadly, I didn’t get to meet, as the bar area was overtaken by some sort of bungling birthday party, with ridiculous revelers who weren’t even taking advantage of the bar’s white hot staff of shakers, instead drinking beer and causing enough of a traffic jam that trying to get to the bar would have been an ordeal taking far too much time away from drinking) served it up. And, they served it up on the edge of marvelously (in the way that Dombey & Son is marvelous. It’s so marvelous, but not quite as marvelous as Bleak House), with an almost too serious head frothed up, as you can see in the picture below. The Macchu Pisco was exquisite, and the balance of sour to smooth walked the line perfectly. It would have been hard to follow up the Whizz Bang for any drink, though.




For my final drink of the evening, I went for a dessert number (and if anyone reading this wants to take offense with my dessert drink then fooey on you-y), a Coconut Flip, made with La Diablada Pisco (see, I was trying to follow a more natural path between drinks 2 and 3), Velvet Falernum (which I’ve been playing around with my-own-self recently), egg yolk, and sugar, with a touch of nutmeg on top in Flip style (a style which, the menu lets you know, traces back to pre-1810 England. They’re good country promoters at the Lonsdale). It was a great capper, with sweetness that didn’t overwhelm and a nice chewy (I’m not describing it exactly right, but it had a mouth feel that was more robust than most drinks due to the yolk) nature. By that time, I’d given up on taking snaps, due to lighting, but picture a smallish glass (a Delmonico glass, to be precise) of wet fluffy whiteness. Like a beautiful romantic ghost-in-a-glass, in a way. So, here’s to the Lonsdale, again, and to Ean and Reba again for taking us, with thanks for a delicious cocktail evening.

September 30, 2008

Drinks on the Road: U.K. Drinks, Part One

Just flew back in from a U.K. vacation (and I have to say, boy are my arms tired. No, really, I had to say it. I was forced by the lame jokes union, who said they’d cut off my supply of Strega if I didn’t use that particular line), where I not only had the brilliant pleasure of seeing the almighty Mighty Boosh live (a show I suggest everyone see before they shuffle off unless they’re very, very lame), but also had some fine drinks. The drinks came in the cocktail, highball, cider, and beer varieties, depending on the place and time and situation. The trip started in London, and started heavier on the cider and beer sides of the bar. I’m a large cider lover (take that as you will–there are what, at least four ways to take it), and the U.K. is an ideal spot to try out members of the cider species, including Aspalls Suffolk Cider, which I had at the Royal George Pub (in the Charing Cross neighborhood–I think), a punkish pub suggested by pals Stereolad and Schtickergirl, who came along for this U.K. adventure and who know their London spots. The Aspalls was “light, dry, and flouncy.”


Wife Natalie was a bit pooped by the time we hit the George (we’d been doing the London market experience all the live-long day), and went for an old reliable: the ice-cold Peroni, which is good no matter what country you’re visiting.



We also went in for the Pimm’s multiple times during the trip (and even brought back a bottle of Pimm’s No. 3, which is the brandy-based winter version, and hard to get over here in the WA), which only makes sense, with Pimm’s being an English standby and a favorite on warm days, which we had plenty of–who says the U.K. is cloudy and rainy and gothic-novel-melancholic 365 days a year by the way? That’s crazy talk. We had a few fine Pimm’s Cups, but the absolute finest, the tip top Pimm’s Cup, maybe in all of the U.K., but definitely in the parts we visited, was discovered at the White Bear Hotel, in Masham, in the Yorkshire Dales (a part of the country we spent some lovely days hanging out within). Masham is a nice village, with a market on Wednesday, a couple good hotels, quaintness to spare, and (like any English village) plentiful pubs on every street. Maybe my favorite Masham pub was the Bay Horse, which had a great veggie Ploughman’s Lunch loaded with 7 kinds of cheese, a meal I consumed while being watched by a little dog named Hank. Oh, but back to the Pimm’s at the White Boar (I start to go tangential, like a monkey flinging through the forest, right after a vacation, cause I miss every bit of it so much). They gave us the option of having it with lemonade (which is lemon soda) or straight soda, but every glass was packed with strawberries and grapes to go with the Pimm’s and mixer, and then topped off with the traditional cucumber slices.


A delicious bubbly treat, indeed. We also had an assortment of cocktails to swoon over at the Lonsdale in London, but I’ll hit those up later in the week.

Rathbun on Film