Friday, September 12th, 2008
Martin Miller’s Gin has graciously brought me to London and Iceland for a week of gin education, touring, and merriment at some of the finest bars in the world.
While I can’t bring each and every one of you with me, I’ll be sharing everything I learn here with you over the next week. So continue to check back for updates and information as I experience them first-hand.
“You’re in for a real treat tonight.” That came from Liam Davies late in the afternoon as we snuck out back for a nip before the festivities began. In retrospect, I’m not sure if he was referring to the very formal dinner upstairs at Miller’s Academy, expertly prepared by Fifteen alum Harry Cummins, or if it was to be the tour of London’s upper echelon of bars until the wee hours.
Either way, he hit the nail right on the head.
First was an exquisite meal that got off to a proper start with some Westbourne martinis (I hope I’m not ruined for gin after this trip), wine of course, and a salad of roasted beets and the finest ricotta cheese I’ve ever tried. Next up was a Welsh lamb tenderloin and some fantastic conversation with the rest of the Americans, who had only today showed up to join in on the fun.
While the real highlight of the night should have been getting the call that my bag had finally arrived and I’d be allowed to excuse myself pre-dessert to at long last slip into some clean clothes, that historic event was actually overshadowed by what was to come next.
First we enjoyed a delightful London evening stroll through Notting Hill to Trailer Happiness. I’d been wanting to experience the fun, campy vibe and the masterfully-prepared Tiki-inspired cocktails of Trailer H for a long, long time. Bartender Tim Stone didn’t disappoint me with a more-than-perfect rendition of a classic Mai Tai. The only disappointment is that given their posh neighborhood surroundings, Trailer closes at 11 PM.
So we wandered down the road to Jake Burger’s newest venture, the Portobello Star, where we would eventually stumble back upon the UK’s most famous cocktail blogger, Jay Hepburn. Jake was behind the bar, slinging up some classic White Ladies, brilliant blender-less Piña Coladas, and a beautiful classic Daiquiri made with El Dorado 15 year old rum. At this point, things are starting to look up, the crowd is energized, and we’re ready to see what else London can throw at us.
So we high-tailed it to Quo Vadis, SoHo’s latest and most decadent private club. One of my new favorite bartenders, Paul Mant gave us the full tour, whipped up a quick Cava-spiked creation, and demonstrated the coolest little machine I’ve seen in a long time, a non-motorized, non-electrical brass ice-baller that uses gravity to punch out the perfect ice ball in seconds. The crowd stood around and watched, agape.
If you’re going to roll, I highly recommend rolling with the team from Martin Miller’s. One quick phone call later, and we were all set up with a table at Milk and Honey (not always something the average human can do on such short notice, I’ve heard tell) and it was on. Soon Pisco Punches, Old Fashioneds, Brambles and other worldly delights were finding their way to our table as the bartenders took over one side of the booth and argued the delicate intricacies of the craft cocktail movement and the merit of the enthusiasts’ contributions to the bar renaissance.
That’s a lot of heavy drinks and dialogue to digest in one night (I can’t believe I’m leaving for Iceland tomorrow) so it was Bedtime for Bonzo to catch a quick bit of beauty rest before leaving in the morning to take in the distillery, two hours away in Birmingham.
More to come, friends, stay with me!