The second Winchester Cocktail Week was held in mid February. Following the success of last year’s event it was decided to include a larger programme of events for 2017. Organised by Gary & Marcus from Cabinet Rooms, they teamed up with venues all across the city and drinks partners all over the UK, to make this a week that cocktail lovers will remember.
One of the organised events was a masterclass in cocktail making; and if you are going to have a masterclass, you should really have a master. So they found one by the name of Alistair (Ali) Burgess, part owner of Happiness Forgets in Hoxton Square, London.
Happiness Forgets has been in the top 12 of the World’s 50 Best Bars since 2011, winning the award for Best International Cocktail bar and given a 5 star rating by Time Out London.
It is a small intimate bar, subtley lit with a mixture of jazz, blues and modern upbeat music, relaxingly being played in the background. You are made to feel very welcome on arrival and if you are unsure what you want to try, expertly guided around their menu.
The venue was Chococo, a luxury and fine chocolate shop and cafe located in the High Street, a regular colaborator with Cabinet Rooms and similar to Happiness Forgets, the perfect intimate location for the masterclass to be held.
The first cocktail that Ali demonstrated was a Tom Collins, but with a Japanese spin. Gin and lemon juice combine with yuzu sake, grapefuit juice, sugar syrup and soda water. For my palate it worked; tart, but in a good lemon curd sort of way. An interesting oriental take on a classic.
Next was a Gin Sour named London Calling. Gin, lemon juice, sugar syrup, orange bitters and dry sherry were the ingredients. It sounded like it was created in Andalucia, somewhere exactly between Sevilla and Jerez! The combination of sherry and orange bitters was a mouth watering one, and it made me smile.
One of Happiness Forgets most popular cocktails is called Perfect Storm. It is made up from dark rum, fresh ginger juice, lemon juce, honey, sugar syrup and ginger ale. A very fine signature cocktail it would make too. For flavour combinations, there was no harshness as you would hope, but I did enjoy how the dark rum and ginger rounded each other perfectly. No wonder it is popular.
Ali completed his masterclass with a San Sebastian – Rye whiskey, sherry, angastora bitters, maple syrup and an interersting cocktail named Louis Balfour, made from Talisker 10 whiskey, Taylor’s port, honey, Amer Picon. Picon is a caramel-coloured, bitter aperitive, interestingly often drunk alongside beer in France.
Choose Your Gin Wisely
Ali also gave some valuable advise about how you should consider choosing your gin. His personal favourite was Beefeater to use as an everyday drinks cabinet gin. This was because gin has to have a minimum retail strength of 37.5%. Beefeater is 40% ABV. The extra 2.5% is worth having, Ali says. It’s a bit like perfume, where the alcohol carries the frangrance, it is the same with gin; the extra alcohol will carry more of the flavours in your cocktail.
Ali hosted a wonderful and very educational evening for cocktail and also gin lovers. A perfect example of the quality and expertise that goes into creating Winchester Cocktail Week.
Happiness Forgets, 8-9 Hoxton Square, London N1 6NU happinessforgets.com
Chococo, 152 High Street, Winchester SO23 9AY