I often spot cool new food and drink spots in Clerkenwell and Farringdon from the top-deck of the bus on my daily commute, and I had noticed that the Clerkenwell Collection, a concept store with a bar and restaurant, had closed and then relaunched as Clerkenwell London and 155 Bar & Kitchen.
It's fair to say, then, that I was pleased as (rum) punch to be invited, along with a number of other London bloggers, to a cocktail masterclass at 155, organised by the lovely ladies of About Time Magazine, to sample some of the delightful libations from the autumn menu. Our welcome drink was possibly my favourite: the Lavender Refresher, which paired gin with cranberry, lemon and lavender syrup, and came served in a gorgeous copper mug. It was as refreshing as its name promised, and the lavender elevated the drink from the usual gin plus citrus combinations.
Before the masterclass started, we took a sneak peak at the rest of Clerkenwell London. Downstairs, there is a wine tasting room with an enviable wine collection, a romantic piano bar and a sexy private dining room. The design throughout the building is really spot on with oversized pendant lights, wooden furniture and accents of black and copper.
The concept store also occupies both the ground floor and the basement and encompasses fashion and accessories, a signature fragrance collection and gorgeous, Scandinavian-inspired homewares. One of the rooms, in particular, had so many things I wanted to buy for my flat, and everything is very well curated and displayed.
Window shopping done, it was time to learn how to make a few cocktails, with some expert advice from 155's cocktail guru. The first was a Buffalo Berry, with Buffalo Trace, lemon juice, strawberries, apricot jam and basil leaves. Strawberry can be a bit cloying in a cocktail, but paired with the bourbon and the basil, the taste was just right, and I would definitely order it again. If you want to make your own, you will need: 50 ml Buffalo Trace, 15 ml lemon juice, 1.5 fresh strawberries, 1 spoon apricot jam and 6 basil leaves.
Next up was the Catch the Cherry, a drink I might not have picked out of a cocktail list, even though I like all of the ingredients. It ended up being one of my favourites of the night, however. I do love a good margarita but it's nice to do more unusual things with tequila too, such as combining it with cherry liqueur, Drambuie, apple juice, rosemary and lime. As you can see, 155 really like to include fresh fruit and herbs in their cocktails, and I approve! To make this drink, combine 25 ml tequila, 15 ml Cherry Heering, 15 ml Drambuie, 35 ml apple juice, a spoonful of rosemary tincture and 10 ml fresh lime juice; plus a couple of cherries and a sprig of rosemary to garnish. Gorgeous copper barware is optional although recommended.
Then it was time for the martini and although martinis aren't normally my thing (I'm trying to get into them), this one had the best cocktail garnish I've had since the Caesar with a bacon straw in Saskatoon. The Black Cow martini is made with Black Cow's milk vodka (yes, milk vodka; you can find out more on their website) and white Regal Rouge vermouth — stirred, not shaken — and served with a cracker bearing a glorious hunk of Black Cow cheese. The martini was very well mixed, with smooth, crisp flavours, but it's probably still going to be a while before martinis become a favourite of mine.
After the cheese course, it is, of course, pudding time! The last cocktail of the night was inspired by the humble Bakewell tart: delicious Pinkster's raspberry-infused gin, which I've tried before, mixed with raspberry liqueur, amaretto and apple juice with almond cream — and a maraschino cherry — floated on top. It was really sweet but not at all sickly, and it really did taste just like a boozy Bakewell tart. I don't think I could drink a lot of them, but one was a delicious way to end a fun night in a lovely venue that will take you from breakfast (I spied some pourover coffee kit on the bar), through afternoon shopping and then on to dinner and late-night cocktails.
155 Bar & Kitchen @ Clerkenwell London. 155 Farringdon Road, London, EC1R 3AD (Tube: Farringdon). Website. Twitter.
Disclaimer: I was a guest of 155 Bar & Kitchen for their cocktail masterclass. All opinions are my own.