Thursday 17th October - Thursday nights off are a rare treat for me as I am normally rehearsing with Kensington Symphony Orchestra, so it was fortunate that Barchick decided to have their London Cocktail Week after party at the Buffalo Trace Empire popup bar on my only free Thursday in October. In keeping with London Cocktail Week (post to come soon), cocktails were priced at £4, but hardly any money changed hands all evening.
Lauren and I turned up at 18.15 to take advantage of the free drink before 18.30 offer, but this seemed to go on for most of the night. We had vague plans to head off elsewhere later on, but we soon gave up on those. We immediately ran into other drink bloggers Wilkes, Louis (Tuck and Vine) and Amy, who had also found their way on to the guestlist, and settled down with some Figgy Pudding cocktails and fig-infused bourbon shots which kept coming. Various Barchicks were wandering around, and Buffalo Trace photographers were snapping away throughout the evening. Team List member Cassie wandered in just as we were taking part in one very staged shot which involved drinking a couple of Picklebacks (Buffalo Trace with a pickle juice chaser) on the house.
We propped up the bar for the rest of the evening, after befriending the entertaining barmen during the pickleback photoshoot. They generously gave us some tasters of the limited production George T. Stagg bourbon which is rarely seen outside the US. This year's bottle is 64.1% ABV, which is relatively low compared to 71.4% in 2012! Joey (pictured below) also humoured us by making "blind cocktails", running his hand across spirits and waiting for us to shout stop. We eventually tore ourselves away, and nearly forgot to pay! Big thankyou to Barchick and the Buffalo Trace team for a riotous few hours.
Lauren and I wandered off in the direction of Embankment with a new friend Keegan who we had picked up at the bar. He was very knowledgeable on the drinks front, and before we knew it we were walking into the The American Bar at The Savoy instead of a tube station. The American Bar recently came 20th on the World's 50 Best Bars 2013 List, due in no small part to Eric Lorincz making the drinks behind the bar. Eric is often described as "bartending royalty" and was headhunted by The Savoy to take over when they relaunched in 2010. Luckily for us, Eric was around when we went, and actually came over for a chat thanks to the mysterious Keegan.
We had a lovely little table right next to the pianist who was still tinkling away when we got there after midnight. The menu was a little daunting after a couple hours of shots and blind cocktails with the Buffalo Trace guys, so Lauren and I both ordered a Negroni. Our round was ever so slightly delayed (which we didn't notice at all) so they decided to give it them to us for free. If you want that to happen anywhere, it is at The Savoy! The cocktails were unsurprisingly fantastic, and the atmosphere was wonderful. You really get a feel for the heritage that the bar has - both Ada Coleman and Harry Craddock (author of the essential Savoy Cocktail Book) tended the bar here back in the day. There is a small museum right next to the bar, and the long walk to the toilets takes you past all sorts of interesting things. It was a brief visit, but a perfect and slightly mad way to end a very fun evening. I wonder if we will ever see Keegan again, or if he even exists?
Sunday September 29th - Regular readers might remember that Team List came across new brewers Anspach & Hobday back in March at Craft Beer Rising on Southbank. They were brewing out of their flat at that stage, with great results. I have kept in contact since and run into them a couple of times, at the Euston Tap and Brew by Numbers in Bermondsey. It has been fascinating following their progress whilst the London craft beer scene is booming, so I was delighted when they kindly invited me to a private tasting session in a flat in Liverpool Street.
Luke got the nod ahead of Natalie and Lauren to be my +1 since he is more of a beer fan. We took a very roundabout route from Liverpool Street station via the market that I didn't know existed on Middlesex Street before we found our way to the flat. We caught up with Jack (Hobday) and Paul (Anspach) and then got stuck in to the tasting, starting with their refreshing Sour, and an interesting IPA Saison. I'll let the experts do the talking once the beer is officially released, but there is a lot of quality here. We also tried their Table Porter, Stout and their rather special & subtle Smoaked beer which I was impressed with back in March. They have already won a Silver Medal at the International Beer Festival with a bottle of their Porter - not bad for something that was brewed in their kitchen.
We weren't just there to taste beers, as they gave a presentation to update friends and family on their progress, and thank their extended team who were all in the same room for the first time. They ran a successful Kickstarter campaign to upgrade their kit, and are ready to go on all fronts except the location - they are looking around Bermondsey and Brixton but haven't settled on anywhere yet, so get in touch if you know of somewhere that might be suitable! They have settled on a classy new design, with London clearly referenced. Two gentlemen from different eras with a striking resemblance to Jack & Paul are centre stage, in a nod to the fact that they are using old brewing methods with a modern twist. There is also a pigeon in a hat on the back - why not?
They have grand plans for expansion, and hope to one day open up their own "Beer Cathedral" in London, a large home for superb beer served fresh right in the centre of London. They have an experienced team with them, and most importantly a very good product, so I see no reason why they can't go far! We met several enthusiastic supporters and helpers, including the wonderful one-woman PR army that is Su-Lin Ong, who is my new best friend (stay tuned for posts on CoLD Bar and Courtesan with Su-Lin). After the presentation we tried their award winning Porter, which deserves all the praise it has received. We also had a little sample of their Munich Pale, and the Nordic Breakfast which has an amusing back story that you'll have to ask them about.
Hopefully they will find a home soon, and start selling their wonderful beer (ideally in Battersea, please). Thanks to the guys for the invite, and good luck for the future!