Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Giles @ Shochu makes a last couple of drinks...

I'm always sorry to hear of a favourite bartender leaving a favourite bar but that's progress for you! On Friday 29th October 2010 Giles Cowen will be leaving the Shochu bar at Roka for good. Needless to say I hot tailed it down there last night to catch up with Giles and share some La Maison Fontaine Absinthe with him before he left. It's always interesting to have a conversation with bartenders about Absinthe, so many myths to explode! Absinthe should never be set on fire, it doesn't make you mad, it's not hallucinogenic and there's a scientific reason for the high alcohol strength....etc....etc.

Although Giles is not a massive fan of anise he was very pleasantly surprised by the smoothness and complexity of La Maison Fontaine, inspired he made a drink:

Purple Rain

25cl La Maison Fontaine
25cl Gin
15cl Cherry Brandy
10cl fresh lemon juice
5-10cl sugar syrup

Shake all ingredients over ice and strain into a chilled martini glass. Lemon zest as garnish.

This was really very easy to drink and now Giles was warmed up he ventured onto something very different indeed.

Snow Fairy

25cl La Maison Fontaine
25cl fresh cream
15cl Cartron white chocolate liqueur
5-10cl almond syrup
5cl sugar syrup
Fresh mint leaves

Bruise the fresh mint with the sugar then add all the other ingredients and shake the hell out of it. Fine strain into a chilled martini glass and add a mint garnish.

I'm not a massive fan of creamy cocktails but this was very well balanced and reminiscent of mint chocolate ice cream. A Snow Fairy is the sort of drink where you look at the ingredients and think maybe it shouldn't work - but it does!


Sunday, 24 October 2010

St Nicholas Abbey 12 Year Old Rum, RumFest, The Golden Rum Barrel Awards and the New SNA Estate Rum.

RumFest 2010 was on 16th and 17th October and as always we were swamped at the St Nicholas Abbey stand! We rolled out The Barrel again and many fans, old and new, were very pleased to try the now 12 year old rum. Many came back again this year, not only to try the rum but to also get presents engraved for various loved ones throughout the year! "This one's for my boyfriend's 30th in April" said one very happy rum reveller, "it's for my dad's Christmas" said another. Anna did a really great job of managing to fit some 'small essays' on the back of the bottle for some other well prepared people!

It was the launch of St Nicholas Abbey 12 year old and Tatu got bottle no. 4 to take back to Australia, it will be the only one in the whole country, rare indeed! This year also saw the first ever Golden Rum Barrel Awards. Rum aficionado's from across the globe were asked to nominate their top 5 rums in each of the categories. St Nicholas Abbey was very proud to be nominated TWICE! Best Premium Rum up to 12 years and Best Rum Package. Particulary pleasing given St Nicholas Abbey is not yet available in the U.S. Just to be nominated was a real honour for all of the rums in the line up.

Simon and Larry Warren with the award for Best Rum Package!


The brand new batch still with reflux column and condenser

Last year saw the new still installed at St Nicholas Abbey which was the first new distillery to open in Barbados for a very long time. Given the Abbey is surrounded by sugar cane and has one of the last remaining operational steam mills in the Caribbean, it makes sense to use fresh, sugar cane juice to make the rum with. While this is technically an agricole rum, Larry uses a hybrid pot-column still so he can cut the distillation at a high abv to loose a lot of the heavy, grassy esters common in agricole rum. Last year Larry brought a sample of the new rum to RumFest 2009 which by then had had 6 months in new Bourbon oak.

This year Larry brought the same barrel sample over again which is now 18 months old. We had a lot of fun geeking out and comparing and sharing them with other rum lovers at the show. Some absolutely loved the 6 month old with its fresh cane and assertiveness of youth, while most prefered the already more mellow, complex and rounded 18th month old. Both samples are in a very safe place in the Sip Or Mix offices and we're already looking to how they might compare with the 2.5 year old at next year's RumFest! Indeed, the rum is shaping up so nicely we could be looking at a very limit bottling of the 3 year old....

If you're planning to visit Barbados please visit St Nicholas Abbey, to find out more go to:

If you'd like to learn more about St Nicholas Abbey in the UK please email me at:

Friday, 22 October 2010

ArtSet, Frieze Art Fair and La Maison Fontaine Absinthe

The affection for Absinthe amongst the great artists of the 18th and early 19th centuries is well documented, not least in some of their art. It's not surprising then that La Maison Fontaine - a traditionally distilled, artisan Absinthe with a contemporary twist - would be involved in both reviving the interest in true Absinthe and hanging out with the up and coming ArtSet in the early 21st Century!

Monday the 11th October saw the launch of Frieze Art Fair week and ArtSet organised an event at The Haymarket Hotel with La Maison Fontaine as a guest for the guests. We had fountains ready for both The Fontaine of Youth and a perfect serve of iced water with or without sugar depending on the palate preference.

ArtSet is a contemporary arts membership circle that focuses on creating access and exposing members to the London art scene through private gallery openings, curator-led tours of museum exhibitions, artist talks, art film screenings and studio visits. ArtSet aims to educate its members and provide them with the necessary tools to view art works critically and thoughtfully within a comfortable, engaging and social setting. The fact that their inaugural event was held in the Pool Room of the Haymarket Hotel would be testament to that!

The video installations were by Nicole Cohen who was showing her work for the first time in London. Although traditionally trained in painting and drawing, today Cohen primarily uses the concept of collage and video to question the rules of social etiquette, performance anxiety and critically examine expected behaviour in private life. Both the works 'How to Make Your Windows Beautiful (2007) and Sunday Morning (2007) were completely absorbing as each moved the observer through a private human space with an incongruous landscape as a backdrop. This layering effect gives each piece a strangely haunting and 3d effect which I'd highly recommend a viewing of.

Nicole is an American born artist now based in Berlin and as well as being a very creative and innovative artist she's also a rather lovely lady!

Later in the evening I introduced her and the ArtSet crowd to La Maison Fontaine and guided them though the history and production of Absinthe, expelling many myths in the process. As always La Maison Fontaine was extremely well received with the Fontaine of Youth proving to be particularly popular.

It was a real pleasure to meet so many creative and receptive people and share both the truth about Absinthe and La Maison Fontaine!

If you'd like to find out more about ArtSet please email Fernanda at

If you'd like to find out more about the truth behind Absinthe and try La Maison Fontaine please email me at