October 19th sees the beginning of Bristol Cocktail Week, bringing Bristol Bar Wars, a masked cocktail ball, and tons of other entertainment based on the humble cocktail to the City. What better way to kick things off than a cocktail masterclass, no less, taking place at The Milk Thistle, one of Bristols hidden speakeasy bars. It's totally hidden, too; I had to google map it to get there and then you have to knock at an unmarked door to be let in, all very covert!
I'm not a cocktail aficionado but I do like a delicious drink, so I thought it would be interesting to see what I would learn. Kindly invited by Destination Bristol, I was greeted on arrival to the sumptuous bar interior with lots of nibbles and the first drink of the evening; a raspberry gin collins. Unfortunately gin is not a drink I particularly like, although the cocktail was tasty I didn't finish it!
The basics of cocktail making were explained thoroughly by experienced bartender Danny. The necessities include decent alcohol (no savers stuff here!) and learning the blocks of a cocktail; often made of just three or four components. You can pretty much use whichever ingredients you like as long as they fit within the required components for that drink. Sounds confusing, but is actually really simple!
Further to the tutorials, cocktails were supplied to taste! An amazing daiquiri with a slightly bitter, almost marzipan taste was delicious, miles away from the sickly strawberry flavours associated with the drink. The evening was rounded off with a punch, again, crisp and refreshing (almost too easy to drink!) which was made I believe with tequila, again, far removed from the normal fruit and wine flavours you come to expect a classic punch to contain.
A history lesson brought to life with stories of the first cocktails and ways folk got around the American prohibition period (a '12 mile limit' cocktail so named because you could legally drink it 12 miles off shore, so people got on board their boats and headed out into the sea to get drunk!) made the whole experience both fascinating and thoroughly enjoyable, and also made me realise what skill true bartenders have. The ability to mix drinks correctly, combine flavours and ensure the components stack up is a lot like chefing; it all looks so simple to chuck a few drinks together but there is science and methodology behind it, and it was really exciting to witness.
If you'd like to find out more about Bristol Cocktail Week, check out their website for the full list of events and activities going on over the week.