Monkeys and Absinthe in Reading

What a busy start to the year it’s been, it feels like only yesterday that I wrote my first blog but it’s probably been nearer to two months!

So, what’s been going on in Reading? Multiple training and tasting sessions from El Dorado, Elements 8, Bowmore, Auchentoshan, Glen Garioch, Jack Daniels and Bombay Sapphire have left our bartenders hungry for knowledge and itching for the first comps of the year, so much so that we have a bartender in the Kraken comp, as well as 2 bartenders competing in the Appleton Bartender Challenge semis.

Once again Joe tries his best to set himself alight

We were also fortunate enough to get a tasting of the new Ocho Curado. Our bartenders were thoroughly impressed with the transformation Ocho Blanco undertakes once rested on the cooked agave fibres, with sweet honey notes and an intense agave flavour we are looking forward to experimenting with the bottle we have.

We’ve also had the second run of the Taste Pilots.  Like I said last time, the Taste Pilots is basically a brainstorming session where bartenders from all different bars get together and showcase what they can do with a certain product in a non-competitive environment. Back in December, we had Wild Turkey and this month it was the turn of Monkey Shoulder(with a little bit of Balvenie thrown in for good measure).

Joe and the Monkey Shoulder

Joe Petch was on hand dressed in ceremonial Monkey Shoulder bath robe to talk us through the history of this blended whisky made from 3 single malt whiskies and let us in on what it has to offer.

So….”This triple malt whisky uses Glenfiddich, Balvenie and Kininvie to create a whisky that David Stewart (master blender) intended to be very approachable and smooth, great for newcomers to the genre, with less dryness and more sweetness using 8 to 11 year old whiskies and only from ex bourbon barrels. This makes it pretty good as a base spirit for cocktails as it’s very versatile and works well with a lot of different flavour.”

The group certainly agreed as we sampled Joe’s twist on a Diablo, originally created by Dale Degroff using Cognac. Joe blazed a very welcoming amount of Monkey Shoulder with 1 split vanilla pod, a stick of cinnamon and an entire orange peel studded with cloves.  Once the cloves were glowing he then doused it in coffee and served it out.  It certainly dusted the cobwebs off of anyone that was feeling a little worse for wear from the weekend and as we finished our Diablos, Joe handed over the reins and we got cracking on our creations.

The Taste Pilots enjoying some Monkey Shoulder

With the first night nerves of last month out the way everyone was quick to get involved.  Cocktails today really showed how everyone had grasped the concept and had spent a little time preparing , even bringing a few secret ingredients, whether that was in the form of bitters, syrups or Monkey Shoulder infusions/fat washes.   The drinks on offer ran from the fresh and zesty “Hippy Hippy Shake” by Cat from Raoul’s, tiki and exotic with Benji from Mix Bar’s “Jungle VIP”, to the rich and creamy “Better Than Another Malt Man” by Ash from Sahara.

As always the drinks were of a high standard but what really stood out to Joe and I, was the level of camaraderie between everyone there. Reading really is becoming a great bartending community! All the feedback was honest and constructive and each of the bartenders came away with new ideas and drinks that, with a little polishing, could easily be competition level cocktails.

Ash and the Absinthe

Also this month we had the pleasure of Ash Bovey holding the E.D.S. (Educated Drinkers of Sahara) meeting. She walked us through the history of Absinthe, including modern day legislation, the importance of La Fee and their relevance to todays’ market, and abolishing some of those myths that have, in the past, left many afraid of the green fairy.  With the pressure of the first meeting of the year firmly on her shoulders she smashed the task at hand.  Covering the classic absinthe louche through to contemporary cocktails and the La Fee XS range, she finished the evening with a taster of the four cocktails La Fee have taken from her as their new signatures.

The most important thing members took away today was that absinthe isn’t something to be scared of.  It’s a very versatile spirit that when handled with the due care and attention it deserves can yield stunning results.

So here’s looking forward to next month, with a Bloom Gin Taste Pilots on the horizon, an E.D.S. meeting with Stef from El Dorado and training sessions with Tuaca, Dalmore and White and Mackay it’s set to be another action packed month!

Here are a couple of the cocktails from the Taste Pilots and Ash’s Mon Petit Salut.

Cat's Hippy Hippy Shake

Caffinated Chimp
50ml Monkey Shoulder
14ml Dark Cacao
15ml Crème du Apricot
5 Coffee Beans
Blaze all ingredients, strain over ice, then strain again into a stemmed cocktail glass.
Josh, Cerise

Hippy Hippy Shake
60ml Monkey Shoulder
60ml Apple juice
25ml Rosehip syrup
15ml Lemon juice
Dash of orange bitters
Shake with cubed ice and fine strain into a coupe garnished with an orange twist.
Cat, Raoul’s

Fudge Monkey
60ml Fudge washed Monkey Shoulder
4 Dashes Angostura Bitters
Stir over cubed ice then strain into an old fashioned glass over large block of ice.
Dan, Sahara (Inspired by Sam Kershaw’s Trois Rivieres cocktail)

Benji's Jungle VIP

Jungle VIP
45ml Monkey Shoulder
15ml Crème du Apricot
30ml Pineapple juice
25ml Lime juice
15ml Orgeat Syrup
Shake with cubed ice and strain into a sling garnished in a totally tropical fashion.
Benji, Mix Bar

Mon Petite Salute (My Little Hi)
45ml La Fee Bohemian
20ml Lemon juice
20ml Vanilla Syrup
15ml Luxardo Maraschino
4 dashes Peychauds bitters
Shaken hard over cubed ice then fine strained into coupette glass with a lemon twist garnish.
Ash, Sahara

Again, thanks to the Wife for helping me with my mouth words! See you all next month!