Iconic Leeds Venue The Maven Reveal New Summer Tasting Menu

Exploring The Maven’s Five Course Cocktail Tasting Menu

If you’ve never been to the award-winning Maven bar before, you’d be forgiven for not knowing it even exists. Hidden in the quaintest corner of Call Lane and marked only by a singular golden “M” plaque by the door – the only sign that up the stairs and to the left you’ll find one of Leeds’ most talented team of cocktail enthusiasts.

It’s not controversial to suggest they’re doing things with cocktails the average drinks enjoyer haven’t even heard of! As the world of mixology shifts the way of gastronomy and follows in the footsteps of culinary giants, The Maven have taken the plunge into tasting menus. Just like at a restaurant, expect a five-course menu of cocktails and food pairings that take you on a journey of flavour through the wonderful world of spirits.

As you step foot into the Great-Gatsby-esque cocktail venue, you’ll be greeted warmly by one of their very small team, who’ll make sure you’re comfortable and don’t have to worry about any allergies while you let the beautiful surroundings and classic hip-hop soundtrack fully immerse you into their world. They’ll guide you on your journey and talk you through what to expect from each serve – much like one would hope for from a high-end restaurant.

All their cocktails are vegan, gluten free, zero-waste, and use locally sourced ingredients. This menu has a heavy focus on local produce, specific to Yorkshire going into Spring and
Summer. Let’s explore their five-cocktail tasting menu, and hopefully encourage you to get out and try some local produce through:

A Cocktail-Based Exploration of the British Spring and Summer Harvest.

Serve One – March: “The branches on the trees may still be bare, but there are signs of life beginning to bloom and sprout under spring’s earliest sunbeams.”

We start with a tantalisingly tart cocktail to wet your proverbial whistle and indicate what is to come. In your glass you’ll find something akin to a Gimlet (gin and cordial, in essence) but with much more complexity and profound rhubarb notes. March calls simply for Harrogate based Slingsby Rhubarb gin and a homemade asparagus cordial, inspired by one of the few harvest bounties you can find in Yorkshire in the earliest doors of spring. On paper, an unhinged combo but in reality an artfully balanced, earthy-tart rhubarb concoction. On the side, a serving of their homemade gluten free crackers and rhubarb conserve. Sticky, gooey and yummy. Garnished with rose petals that brighten the serve. This sweet garnish contrasts beautifully with the tart, earthy liquid found in the glass.

Serve Two – April: “As spring really begins to take form, the grass becomes greener, daffodils are out in force and the days feel longer, with a palpable sense of optimism.”

Chasing up that crisp, tart opener comes round two! Where March thrives in its celebration of the sour, April takes the palette right to the bitter end of the flavour spectrum. The blend of artichoke amaro (a bitter aperitif), soda and a homemade beetroot shrub makes for a truly unique sipping experience. Shrubs are an age-old preservation technique that leaves zero-waste and has been employed for keeping food long past its best-by date before the dawn of refrigeration. They are often vinegary, tart and full of flavour. Centring the serve are the umami, salted beetroot crisps that leave you ready to dive right back into the delightful swirl of bitter effervescence that sits in your tasting glass.

Serve Three – May: “Spring is now in full bloom, the trees have leaves on the branches and the country becomes green and vibrant again.”

Now, your palette has gone through some pretty intense (and wonderful) things by now, and it is high time for a cleanser. Luckily, this next serve is just that! May offers up a Summer-y blend of Slingsby Gooseberry Gin, Nettle Cordial and Cucumber Soda. So so light, ever so refreshing without giving up an ounce of the complexities found in the previous courses. The mild bitterness of the nettle cordial is balanced expertly with the pronounced flavours of gooseberry and Juniper. Careful not to get brain freeze on the crisp vegan cucumber sorbet, which blends and matches perfectly with the cocktail, as opposed to contrasting like the serves gone by, making this a true palette cleansing experience.

Serve Four – June: “Toward the end of June, peas begin to fruit, much to the delight of home growers, chefs and in this case, curious bartenders looking for a fresh flavour to explore.”

As we fall deeper into the months of summer, many turn to citrus as a source of refreshment. June is the most sour cocktail by far, with the homemade elderflower cordial dominating, but on the nose you’ll be greeted with a bouquet of mint aromatics. Beyond that, expect a lingering finish of the pod peas, which as it sounds, is absolutely to die for. Now for my personal favourite side – crispy peas with powdered sugar. Which is odd, as I don’t normally like british peas, but there’s something really special about the sweet, salty, crispy snacks and the way they just complete the cocktail that is truly delightful.

Serve Five – July: “In the height of summer, hot days, warm nights and beer gardens are the name of the game. Strawberries are available all summer, but none are as plump and juicy as in July.”

What better way to celebrate your final course, and warmer days, than with some bubbles. In the glass, a blend of Alpine Strawberry Vermouth, Strawberry, Fennel and Prossecco. This is no desert cocktail. This isn’t a final course, no. This is just the beginning, a beautiful, cider-esque beverage to bring in the hot Yorkshire summer. The July cocktail evokes the feeling of beer gardens and warmer days. We all need warmer days. The final food pairing is baked strawberries with fennel, a super fresh, chewy endeavour that will leave you longing for more.

Luckily for you, there’s a whole menu of cocktails to explore!