Last night I was one of the London bloggers assisting in the Whitley Neill gin Top of the Tree Challenge. It’s a tough job but yadda yadda.
Whitley Neill are a boutique outfit, and produce a premium brand of gin. From May to November this year they ran a competition where people suggested drinks based on their beverage. In keeping with gin’s botanical makeup – and the company’s branding – the cocktails had to include only ingredients that come from trees and had to be served in bars that stock Whitley Neill gin. WN are also donating to Tree Aid based on the number of entrants they received.
The deadline for cocktail entries passed on the weekend, and WN now have the daunting task of narrowing down the hundreds of recipe suggestions they received. For this they enlisted our blogtastic tasting help. Thus we did a gin tour of four London bars (none of which I’d been to) and several cocktails. I’ll not get into too much detail about the cocktails since the judging is still going on. But I certainly got to try some new and interesting drinks.
We met in the buzzy lounge bar at One Aldwych. There were several drinks here with ingredients from cinnamon to mango to rosewater to kumquat to – be still my Canadian heart – maple syrup.
The second bar was the private upstairs club at Quo Vadis, lah dee dahh. Much quieter than our first stop, but also swankier, and with a pianist. I will say I had my favourite cocktail here: the Reciprocal, which in addition to the gin had licorice, pink peppercorn, and grapefruit flavours. Mmmm.
Then it was Bureau, a Kingly Court basement bar that was too exclusive for us to find without asking. Interestingly, MP Diane Abbott was having some sort of Obama celebration, but we found a corner in which to sip some cocktails. Here they included maple syrup and chocolate, and a popular one with sprigs of thyme in it.
The last bar was Match, a much more “regular-folks” place. A final couple of cocktails – one aniseed-y, the other lemon-y – with some finger-food and we were pretty much ginned out.
While last night didn’t suddenly move gin up the top of my drinks list, it did expand my thinking beyond the simple G&T. Not all the drinks were to my taste – no group of cocktails ever will be, for any type of booze – but some of them worked really well. I’ll be sending the fine guys at Whitley Neill my input and hope it helps them decide on their winner.
It was super seeing some familiar faces – eat like a girl, Fake Plastic Noodles, Going Underground, Life on the Edge, tikiChris, and Food Stories. It was also good to meet Cheese and Biscuits and Hollow Legs. More than just a lot of gin, I had a good socialising night, too. Big thanks to Sally from Relish PR for co-ordinating the night and inviting me!
EDIT: photos from tikiChris.