Now that I’ve been to a few cocktail masterclasses, I’ve come to the conclusion that making cocktails is quite an operation and the people who make them are quite the entertainers. Our teacher at Mint Leaf just oozed charm, the one at Rum & Sugar seemed to have endless energy, and not one to buck the trend, the resident mixologist at Reform Social at The Mandeville Hotel was cracking jokes all over the show. All three had their audience in raptures while mixing up delightful cocktails – I can barely pour a glass of wine while talking. Note to self, that needs some practice.
Actually, that’s not the only thing I need to work on. You might expect that after attending at least three of these so-called masterclasses I might be on my way to being a master at making my own cocktails. Well if that’s what you thought, I haven’t managed your expectations particularly well. I haven’t rushed out to buy any of the essential (and very cool) equipment required and I haven’t stocked my shelves with a wide range of spirits. In fact, I haven’t even come close to recreating any of the delicious concoctions I have been taught to make. Why?!
Definitely one part laziness, one part inability, and two parts ‘I just wasn’t paying enough attention to the details’. Someone conscientious might use those front row seats at the bar to their advantage and maybe even take some notes, but I am not that person. I get distracted too easily and at the risk of never getting another invite to a cocktail masterclass, I just want to drink the cocktails. I don’t really care for making them myself, that’s best left to the professionals.
So, as I was saying, good cocktail making is about the details – it’s about the subtle layering of flavours with a dash of this or a spritz of that. Reform Social’s head mixologist Maciej definitely had great attention to detail; he torched little bits of dehydrated ginger to flavour our glasses, he explained how he made the grapefruit cordial he was going to use, he gave us a sniff of the potent raspberry vinegar he dropped into the mix, he even added some peel at the end for a final burst of flavour. So many details… so many elements… and all I really remember is just how good it tasted. Strong enough, not too sweet, slightly smokey – absolutely delicious.
After a cocktail and a glass of champagne on an empty stomach, I thought it was only sensible to make a decent dent in the platters of food in front of us. We got all the British classics; sausage rolls and brown sauce, battered fish with tartare sauce, chips and ketchup, spinach and cheese pastry puffs – bite sized and perfect for nibbling on between drinks! I’m not usually a fan of battered fish but I must confess, I went back for seconds – I loved how the light batter kept that piece of fish so moist!
I think our second cocktail was a combination of gin, velvet falernum, and Midori all shaken up and served with lime. I think… I really tried to concentrate but I can’t be entirely certain. Between our jokester of a teacher telling us hilarious anecdotes and the laughs shared with the rest of our merry bunch, I got lost in the moment and actually lost track of the steps and elements! But that’s surely a sign of a good night?
Reform Social was a surprise hit for me – so often, hotel bars can feel dull or so posh they require an occasion. Either way, they’re not necessarily the places you think of going for a relaxing drink. Reform Social is different, it’s absolutely somewhere you could linger with friends in or escape to after a chaotic trip down Oxford Street. No matter what the reason, they’ll also welcome you with a smile and a guarantee of a good drink!