Spring Bank Holiday

There’s a lot going on this weekend: late-enders on Friday, Saturday & Sunday, DJs, dancers, delectable drinks (as ever), Yard Sale pizza, warm sounds +⁺₊ Barry is back!

This bank holiday always marks something of an ‘end-of-season’ for us as the days stretch and the mercury rises thereafter. We hope you can join us at some point over the weekend, rain or shine. 

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⨒ Check the pocket guide below to see what’s on when ⨓

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Sweet, sour, booze.

This little triptych of ingredients form the basis for a wealth of cocktails and mixed drinks that have been adored, pored over and modified since such a time that these recipes were recorded. We know the ones: sidecar, daiquiri, margarita; and we know the genres: swizzles, fixes, rickeys. All have been ripped in two and rebuilt with cut bases of spirits, flavoured syrups, botanical enhancements, fire and smoke, alchemy and voodoo. One thing that remains largely untouched however, is one of those three key elements: the sour. Lemon and lime (occasionally grapefruit) sit unchallenged at the heart of all.

In recent times bartenders have talked to chefs and equated themselves with verjus, the pungent sour grape juice used in many a demi-glace. But what if you wanted to delve a little more deep into getting as creative with your sours as you can with this sweet-infused syrups. Enter kombucha. Something we’ve been growing, harvesting and using as a sour base for the past two years.

It’s hard to declare this a niche product anymore - bottled, flavoured kombucha adorn every Whole Foods spin-off from here to Dumfries. However, for best results we reckon it’s best to make your own. Here’s for why:

  • Bottled kombucha is a lot more expensive than lemon or lime (won’t anyone think of the GP!) making your own will cost you peanuts, just a little time and love :)

  • Kombucha is a live culture, this means if you’ve done it right it will be unstable and change a lot over a matter of days. Whilst there are loads of adequate products on the shelf a lot is lost in the bottling process for mass-consumption. This is an evolving, living, fermented tea so, to get the most punch out of your booch you need to make your own and monitor it carefully!

  • You can add whatever flavour you want and get a sour juice to play with! Our current iteration contains seaweed, bonito fish flakes, yuzu and miso. The result is a crisp, saline, acidic treat.

And here’s for how:

  • Get a SCOBY; you can find these online or you can come and get off of us :-) And a 3L kilner jar. A bit like a goldfish, your SCOBY ( a culture of yeast and bacteria that looks like something out Aliens) will grow to fit it’s surrounds and then start making extra SCOBYs you can rip off and give to your friends!

  • Mix up 2 litres of Oolong tea (the SCOBY likes an Oolong) with 300g caster sugar (this is important - complex sugars are not preferable as your SCOBY will struggle to break them down). Oh, and use proper diluted water, not tap water; limescale and chlorine are no good here.

  • Place your SCOBY in it’s (sterilised!) jar and add the tea. DO NOT SEAL THE JAR! It needs to breathe. Just place some double layer muslin cloth over the top and rubber band to hold it. After two weeks drain off the tea, clean out the jar and add a fresh batch. You can leave a little of the tea in the base of the jar. If handling the SCOBY be sure to wash your hands in something like Cider vinegar to sterilise them.

  • With your drained kombucha tea you should be tasting something pretty pungent and sour. If it doesn’t knock you back a bit it probably hasn’t been fermenting for long enough so put it back for a few days more. Once happy, this is the stuff you can start adding flavours too. Experiment with batching it in 500 ml brass lidded kilner jars. For each jar add a tablespoon or 2 of fresh juice and some other bits and pieces: cut fruit, ginger, honey, herbs, insects, seaweed etc. Seal for three days and then strain through a double sheet of muslin. Viola. If you want something fizzy, add more sugar at the start.

  • The key thing is that even the drained tea will contain trace element of your SCOBY that will continue fermenting and growing in the second batch, so the juice should keep evolving toward sour; but, it’s definitely good for up to a week. Don’t seal your eventual juice as this could turn it fizzy too (unless that’s what you want).

For reference our current Ponzu Kombucha goes like this:


In a sterile 500 ml brass lidded kilner jar, add:

  • 6 g kombu seaweed

  • 1 tbsp yuzu juice

  • 1 tbsp white miso paste

  • 1 tbsp bonito flakes

Pour over raw kombucha tea up to the line; seal and date. Strain each lidded jar after 3 days through double muslin cloth.




Agave Focus × Mezcal

Tonight sees us team up with Pensador mezcal and LemLem kitchen for a special night of strong drinks, esoteric music and Eritrean-Mexican street-food!

Mezcal is something that captures the imagination. The enchanting, erudite cousin to the more homogenous tequila: cause-célèbre of many a first hangover. Mezcal sits in a more mystical and sophisticated space. One of steep Oaxacan ruins and broken big-wave dreams on titanic Pacific barrels. Earthy, sombre and soothing. It’s spike in popularity raising interest (from our perspective behind the bar at least) in tequila itself and other such succulent, agave-based nectars out of Mexico. To debunk a few myths and find out more about everything agave we chatted to Benjamin Schroder of Pensador to delve behind the doors of denomination!

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First things first, let's talk myth! Mezcal and mescaline are not in any way related. Mezcal will not make you hallucinate. Nor will eating the worms that you find in cheap bottles?

Ha, yeah this one comes up a lot! For a while I was tempted to encourage it. A little added incentive: 2 for 1 on drinks and hallucinogens. But the reality is no - Mezcal does not contain mescaline, or any other hallucinogenic drugs. That would be very illegal. And also extremely hectic.

So if not packed full of mind-altering psychedelics - what's the deal with the worm? No premium brands go near it!

Worms and insects are a big part of Oaxacan food. Crunchy fried crickets. Salty ants used like seasoning. And the chilli salt often served with mezcal - that's got crushed up worms in it. So putting a worm in the bottle has some context. But in practice it's only really done by cheap, industrial scale mezcals. Guys who rely on marketing gimmicks to make up for their bad liquid. And there's a bit of a general point about infusions as well. Artisanal Mezcal is an incredibly inefficient spirit to produce. The agave take at least 8 years to mature, some as much as 20, and the production process is super slow and labour intensive. But people put in all this time and effort because the result are these amazing, completely unique flavours. So why do you want to mask those flavours you've worked so hard for with a last minute addition of worms, herbs or oak? Leave it for the vodkas.

Ouch, to vodka! So, for those new to agave as a category, it's something that’s constantly opening up over here. Ten years ago no-one knew mezcal and thought tequila was the bargain-bin option for a quick buzz. Now we are seeing Raicilla and Sotol making small waves on the UK market - can you outline the key distinguishing features? Or is it just geography?

Yeah its popping off! But it’s very new and there's a lot of confusion in this area. So let's set the record straight.

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Tequila: Geographic D.O. (Denomination of origin) of 5 states, centred on Jalisco. Must be made from at least 51% Blue Weber Agave, the remaining 49% can be made of any base spirit. Tends to be industrial in scale.

Mezcal: Geographic D.O. of 10 states, centred on Oaxaca. Must be made from 100% agave, but can use any agave with sufficient sugar content - the specific number of varietals is vague due to different regional names but is in the region of 30. The majority of worm-free mezcal in the UK is categorised as "Artesanal", meaning it has been produced on a small scale using traditional tools and methods. Mezcal does not have to be smoky, but it almost always is.

Raicilla: Essentially a mezcal from Jalisco - a state outside of the mezcal D.O. so cannot be officially labelled as "mezcal".

Bacanora: Similarly, this is a mezcal from Sonora - another state outside the mezcal D.O.

Sotol: NOT AN AGAVE SPIRIT! Sorry, bit aggressive, but that's a mistake which comes up again and again and really gets under an agave nerd's skin. Sotol is a spirit made in Northern Mexico from the Desert Spoon plant, a type of Dasylirion. To be fair, it looks like an agave and is in the same overarching family. But that's not going to stop me being a furious pedant.

Ultimately, I think that these categories - with the notable exception of Sotol - should all come under the banner of "Agave". Just as Bourbon and Scotch are both Whisk(e)y, we should start treating all agave spirits as one family.

Right, and more than anything else in the spirits world agave sprits are totally influenced by terroir. I heard someone once refer to agave as the 'wine of the spirits world'. How significant was land for you when starting up Pensador?

Yeah terroir is huge with agave. The climate, altitude, soil type and even surrounding plants all impact the flavour of the agave and so the resultant spirit. And this sense of place is amplified with mezcal which also relies on natural fermentation - the local yeasts and microbes varying hugely from town to town, farm to farm. And yeah, the association with wine is a helpful one. People often liken mezcal to whisky or gin based on its flavour profile, but its production process is in fact much closer to wine in terms of the varietals and subspecies of agave available, and the inter-play of terroir and production. All of this was very significant when we were looking for someone to work with on Pensador.

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We spent most of our time in the main mezcal producing region of Matatlan and the surrounding villages. There were great mezcals there, but they were limited by the consistency of their terroir. We couldn't find anything which really stood out. It was when we ventured further afield that stuff got really interesting. The region that we finally settled on - Miahuatlan in southern Oaxaca - has a very distinctive terroir. Significantly it's very dry, classified as "semi-arid", and has a chalky soil with a high limestone content. This has a very dramatic effect on the flavour of the mezcal's produced there. I don't have an amazing pallet. On a blind tasting I can't always tell you what brand I'm drinking, or what agave are in the bottle. But I can always tell if a mezcal is from Miahuatlan. And this Miahuatlan-ness is the beating heart of Pensador.

And what about ageing with mezcal? Tequila has really opened up now that we're seeing reposado varieties, añejos, extra añejos on top of your jovens or whites. Will you be looking to go down this route with Pensador - is that something that's even done with mezcal? I’m sure I’ve seen a few out there but not many.

Barrel aged mezcal is generally disproved of by agave nerds. And there's good reasons for this. For one thing there's no history of aging mezcals in Oaxaca or other states in the D.O. This means both that it's a break with the traditional culture of mezcal, and that there's a lack of local expertise. I've met quite a few producers in Oaxaca trying their hand at aging and it's done with none the finesse they use to produce their young spirits. Little attention is made to the previous contents of the barrel, the conditions in which it is stored, or the number of times it is reused. The results are underwhelming. Another negative is something I touched on earlier with infusions. Barrels smooth out spirits, they oxidise the liquid and add sweetness and depth. But this comes at a cost to the fresh, vibrant flavours of the young spirit. Ultimately, if I want to taste barrel I'll drink whisky or rum. We're here for the agave. So don't fuck about.

Ok, so if we take out the again what about labelling. You see a heap of mezcal labelled: 'Single Village'. This reads to me a bit like 'Single Malt' on a mezcal label. Is this a signifier for something really special? Is there a truth there or have we just been pre-programmed to see 'Single something' and read prestige owing to Scotch?

Yep that's basically the nail on the head. Single malt means something. Granted not what most people think it mean - unless it is single cask, single malts whiskys are blended from a number of barrels - but it legally signifies that it's made from malted barley and comes from one distillery. "Single Village" doesn't mean anything. It's not an official category, just a clever tag line created by Del Maguey to link mezcal to whisky culture. The word you need to keep an eye out for is "Artesenal". This means the mezcal will have been made using traditional methods away from the industrial factories. And 95% it will also have come from a single distillery, in a single village. 

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CBD Cocktail Recipes by Areyo Dadar

CBD Cocktail Recipes to Relax & Entertain Your Guests

We all love a good cocktail – and since you’ve probably already tried all the good stuff, how about taking things to the next level? If you don’t mind introducing an entirely different compound to your drink, then CBD cocktails are perfect for you.

One benefit of adding CBD to your drink is that it actually prevents those awful hangovers, improves cognitive function when drinking, and reduces the symptoms of intoxication. Keep in mind this doesn’t mean you can keep chugging those cocktails without getting drunk; it just means you’re able to enjoy many of the benefits of CBD, and still get drunk.

Before we get on to the recipes, let’s address a few common questions:

What is the proper CBD dosage for a cocktail?

Just use a reasonable amount of CBD in your ingredients. One thing to keep in mind though; smaller doses make you sharper, but in high doses, it can make you sleepy.

Can you OD on cannabidiol?

This isn’t possible, but most CBD products recommend a dosage of up-to 50mg per use.

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Here are 4 amazing CBD cocktails to try today!


1) The Derby Cocktail

There’s a long standing tradition of cocktails and horse racing, and the Derby Cocktail is a classic.

Ingredients:

• 2 oz (60 ml) CBD-infused bourbon (how to get CBD into bourbon)

• ½ oz (15 ml) orange curacao

• ½ oz (15 ml) sweet vermouth

• 1 mint leaf

• 1 lime wedge

Directions:

• Fill a cocktail shaker with ice

• Add the bourbon, sweet mouth, and lime – shake well

• Strain the mixture into a glass

• Add mint leaf and lime wedge


It’s always a good idea to include fruit in your cocktails because apart from improving taste, it reminds you to eat healthy food. Lime juice containsantioxidant properties and it’s great for the immune system; and when combined with CBD, it makes for a nice drink.


2) CBD Mint Julep

Ingredients:

• 15 ml CBD oil

• 6 mint leaves

• 2 ½ (75 ml) ounce bourbon

• ½ (15 ml) ounce syrup

Fantastic drink for when you need to unwind in the evening. Has a rejuvenating taste that will definitely get you in a higher vibration and move away from stress.

Directions:

• Put the CBD into a julep cup and add the leaves. Crush the leaves and add the bourbon

• Swizzle the mixture and top off with ice

• Garnish with more fresh leaves and/or mint sprigs


3) CBD Pimm’s Cup

Ingredients:

• 1 Lemon

• 2 ounces sweet ginger beer

• 1 Cucumber slice

• 10 ml CBD oil

• Ice

Mix up this drink with friends and family, or when a beer won’t do. A squeeze of CBD oil combined with ginger beer, lemon, and fresh cucumber slice will do the trick – and you’re free to try different amounts of the ingredients.

Directions:

• Mix up the ginger beer and CBD oil in a shaker

• Squeeze the lemon into the mixture and shake

• Pour into a glass, add a cucumber

• Drink with ice (optional)


4) Sour T-iesel Cocktail

Ingredients:

• 2 ½ oz (75 ml) tequila

• 1 oz (30 ml) fresh lime juice

• Agave

• 6 mint leaves

• Ice

This cocktail was first sold at Maxwell Reis, a restaurant in West Hollywood. Try with more variations of the ingredients to modify taste.

Directions:

• Crush a few leaves and place in a shaker

• Mix the rest of the ingredients in a shaker for a minute

• Pour into a glass with a pinch of salt, and some ice

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CBD cocktails are easy and fun!

It’s fun to mix up drinks at home especially when you have company – so the next time you want to bring the party to your place, have something unique to serve. Remember, adding CBD to your glass means the alcohol won’t quite hit you as bluntly as it normally does, so the conversation should keep going for a while longer.

CBD Central Tip

In case you drink too much on your night out with friends, or you suspect a hangover is in the works, take CBD as a tincture or gummy before going to bed, and hydrate to remove the toxins. CBD works well to keep you alert and remove toxins, but this process won’t work when liquids are low in the body, and alcohol hydrates. If some of your guests prefer to chew CBD, as opposed to taking it in a drink, there are tons of chewable CBD edibles with flavour such as mango, citrus, and chocolate.

❀ Spring ‣ Menu ❁

Out with the old and in with the new. The Spring equinox always feels somewhat cleansing; just as winter’s drawn on that little bit too long and the festive season is a vanquishing speck on an expandingly-bleak horizon. Suddenly, day matches night and the weight lifts a touch. It’s only going one way from here.

As ever, we try to reflect this gentle optimism in what little way we can through our shifting drinks selections. Out with those robust, deep flavours and earthy spice, in with lighter strokes: fresh mint and lemongrass, violet and forsythia syrup (it’s purple and has CBD in - woof), grappa!

On the list we’ve got a blended mezcal and reposado Sazerac; sweet and smoky with a soft verdant spice. A Boulevardier with the best - independently of each other - amaro and rosso vermouth we’ve ever tasted (Argala’s Amaro Alpino and Discarded vermouth in case you’re wondering). An armagnac or Sidecar-type sour with cured lemon paste, dubbed the ‘Uber XL’.

For the highball it’s our first ever go at a Collins with a distinctly Turkish twist melding sumac and grapefruit. That purple CBD syrup marries up to Reyka vodka and Birds botanical spirit in the crushed ice fix that is and only could be ‘Purple Drank’. Then to finish we sorta-made-our-own white creme de menthe by infusing ume sake with mint which pairs with that Domus grappa for a palette cleansing Stinger to finish.

The list in full starts this evening and will be available to taste up until the summer solstice (or thereabouts) when we’ll all dress-up like druids and wind-down for summer. If you read this and come down tonight (Thursday March 21st) ask the bartender when do the clocks go forwards? and we’ll give you something free to try. Call that an Easter egg for following us this far!

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