Thursday, 15 December 2011

"Hurricane Bawbag" Cocktail by Adam Smithson of Graphic Bar

On December 8th 2011 Scotland was battered by the worst gale force winds in over 10 years. As winds got up to 180 miles per hour and electric pylons fell to the ground - Twitter started trending with Hurricane Bawbag. Having lived in Scotland I instantly got the reference and spent the next few hours constantly chuckling at some of the hilarious #bawbag tweets. This particular favourite was retweeted well over 100 times:

#Scotstorm Hurricane Bawbag Update: A plant pot has fallen over in Airdrie. An eye witness retold the horror "it pure went sideways"

Even Wikipedia - the information resource for the 21st Century - has an entry:

On December 8th I happened to be out and about in London and popped into Graphic Bar in Golden Square in search of a cocktail...
It was Adam from Graphic who first introduced me to the "Monkey Gland" a cocktail using Gin, Absinthe, orange juice and grenadine which was so named after the rather gross and quite bizarre practice of grafting monkey testicle tissue onto human male testicles. Bizarre indeed, although the cocktail, admittedly, is rather tasty.... It became clear that Hurricane Bawbag deserved a cocktail of its' own and of course a 'twisted' Monkey Gland would fit the bill perfectly!

Hurricane Bawbag
by Adam Smithson
8th December 2011

50ml SW4 London Dry Gin
20ml Grenadine
20ml Blue Curacao
Several dashes La Maison Fontaine Absinthe

Shake all the ingredients hard over ice and pour into a coupette. Garnish with a small tuft of hair stuck to the side of the glass. (NB non-edible)

The Hurricane Bawbag understandably has a pinky, bluey hue, but is essentially purple in colour. The overall flavour profile is well rounded with a soft mouthfeel and good length. I would suggest however if you were going to make the Hurricane Bawbag at home or in your bar to use an edible garnish.. perhaps candy floss....

Monday, 21 November 2011

Periquation Cocktail by Ales Olasz of Montgomery Place

This is not the first time Ales has featured on these pages and I'm pretty certain it won't be the last! While we always talk endlessly about Absinthe, on this occasion (back in the summer) Ales came up with a real gem of a twisted Aviation with SW4 London Dry Gin and Jade Perique Tobacco Liqueur - I'd always thought of 'brown' spirits going well with Perique but here was something rather deliciously different...

Periquation by Ales Olasz of Montgomery Place (

50ml SW4 London Dry Gin
15ml Jade Perique Tobacco Liqueur
10ml Maraschino
20ml Lemon Juice

Shake all the ingredients over ice and serve in a coupette. Garnish with a cherry dropped into the bottom of the glass.

So simple yet extremely effective. SW4 (Gin of Champions) is a very smooth, complex and well rounded Gin which means it is a great base for any cocktail! (

Jade Perique Tobacco Liqueur has proved to be a great hit with bar tenders, it tastes great and helps preserve an age old tradition of growing the very rare Perique tobacco. Jade's Perique also offers a safe alternative to homemade tobacco infusions and macerations which can be highly toxic. (ingesting nicotine is potentially as poisonous as arsenic and cyanide) I recently did a Perique tasting in Gerry's and on two separate occasions people refused to taste on the grounds they were made ill by 'tobacco cocktails'. All rather worrying but hopefully this trend is on the way out....

Ales has always been a big fan of Jade ( and I remember first introducing him to Ted Breaux way back in September 2010. Who would have thought then that over a year later we would be messing about with Ales's favourite Absinthe, now in the Sip Or Mix portfolio, Jade Esprit Edouard! (

Green Tea and Rhubarb Sour by Ales Olasz of Montgomery Place

6-8 pieces Fresh Rhubarb
20ml Fresh Lemon Juice
15ml Simple Syrup
50ml Jade Esprit Edouard Absinthe
1/2 tsp powdered Green Tea
Egg White

Break down the rhubarb to release the juice and flavours. Add all the other ingredients and shake vigorously over ice and strain into the glass. Garnish with shreds of rhubarb and lemon.

The initial hit is naturally sour but with real complexity and reminiscent of a summer garden. The Absinthe adds a marked herbacious note and the mouthfeel is almost numbing. The combination of Egg White and Green Tea made it so creamy I wondered if Ales had perhaps slipped in some double cream while I wasn't looking! Admittedly we will have to wait for spring and the next rhubarb season before we can make this sour again but it just goes to show how versatile Absinthe can be in cocktails, even as the base spirit. Time to get messing about with some more Absinthe Sours me thinks...

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

La Maison Fontaine Wins Gold at the 11th Absinthiades

La Maison Fontaine Absinthe Wins Gold

11th Annual Absinthiades in Pontarlier, France

The multi-award-winning Absinthe, La Maison Fontaine®, has added to its burgeoning trophy cabinet, winning the much coveted ‘Golden Spoon’ for the 2nd year in succession in the Blanche category, at the annual Absinthe festival in France.

Taking place in Pontarlier, the birthplace of French Absinthe, the festival, known as the “Absinthiades”, brings together the Worlds leading Absinthes to be tasted and is attended by visitors worldwide. The Absinthes are then judged by leading international spirits experts, VIP’s, and the public, across the 3 day Festival, to select the winner of the prestigious award recognizing the world’s finest.

Launched in 2010 La Maison Fontaine has now won 7 Medal’s including, ISC Gold, Gold in the Absinthe Masters, IWSC Gold and Best in Class, and is helping this much loved, revered and misunderstood “enfant terrible” take-off again.

Mark Stringer, La Maison Fontaine®, co-founder commented;

“We’re exceptionally proud to have won gold, in such a hotly contested category for the 2nd year in a row. We believe that there’s a gap in the market between the evocative, traditional Absinthe and the contemporary, a gap which we’re happy to bridge. One that Traditional absinthe drinkers, bar tenders and customers seem to be excited about”.

La Maison Fontaine® provides a refreshing and modern take on a 200-year-old classic. With its natural ingredients it provides an exciting alternative to the more recognised bar spirits. Distilled in the oldest absinthe stills in the world, using locally grown natural herbs including world renowned Pontarlier Grande absinthe, La Maison Fontaine® gives a refined and unique taste.

Working alongside leading mixologists, Founders Sven Olsen and Mark Stringer have created a range of stunning cocktails to shake up the London bar scene. From the Louche Bloom – a mixture of fresh lime, aged rum and homemade vanilla syrup – to the Fontaine Flower with champagne and Elderflower liqueur, the range provides a selection of surprising taste infusions to rival the existing modern classics such as The Pontarlier Mule.

Absinthe is doing more than simply adding to the existing drinks market, it’s a spirit that is helping introduce a new category for contemporary cocktail lists, with leading London bars, such as Zetter Townhouse, Paramount, Mandarin Oriental, Nobu, Purl, China Tang Dorchester, The London Cocktail Club, to name but a few, now stocking absinthe and La Maison Fontaine®. It's also doing the rounds at celebrity events with La Maison Fontaine most recently making its appearance with an exclusive bar at Bob Geldof's star-studded 60th Birthday Party which included guests Bono, Jerry Hall, Anna Friel and Rolling Stones rocker Bill Wyman to name but a few.

After nearly a century of myth surrounding Absinthe, La Maison Fontaine® is carefully crafted to challenge perceptions, and if its reception so far is anything to go by The White Fairy is certainly sprinkling its gold dust around London.

Saturday, 2 July 2011

The Don Draper #2 @ Paramount with Perique Tobacco Liqueur

There has been a bit of a discussion recently about tobacco in drinks. I would suggest taking a look at Darcy S. O'Neil's Art Of Drink on the matter:

From this article we can conclude that certain libations are best left to the professionals to be confident they are safe for public consumption. Fortunately that's just what Ted Breaux of Jade Liqueurs has done with his Perique Tobacco Liqueur. A safe alternative to home made tobacco infusions and syrups.
Not only is Perique safe, the specific tobacco used also has a very interesting back story. I particularly like Suzonne Stirling's piece:

I note that the Tobacco Road cocktail in Suzonne's piece is made like an Old Fashioned, which is exactly how to make a Don Draper #2... but with a slight difference....

Don Draper, the chain smoking, heavy drinking, main protagonist of Mad Men is obviously the inspiration for this drink. Here's Amanda and Marco of Paramount taking me through the making of a Don Draper #2. First is to smoke fill the glass to impart a really full, smoky flavour and before you ask, their smoking gun is pretty compact and they use cherry wood chips...

Don Draper #2

40ml Woodford Reserve Bourbon
20ml Perique Tobacco Liqueur
2 dash The Bitter Truth Xocolatl Mole Chocolate Bitters
2 dash Regan's Orange Bitters
2 barspoon brown sugar

Slowly build all the ingredients, apart from the Perique, as you would an Old Fashioned. When done add the Perique at the end and stir in just a couple of times. Amanda prefers to keep the flavour of the Perique in tact rather than equal dilution with the Bourbon. Top the glass up again with smoke, transfer the drink into it and cover the top with a napkin. Then, when ready, serve the drink by removing the napkin.

Here's one of the early prototypes with the view from Paramount in the background, awesome! Not so long ago Paramount launched their new cocktail list and the Don Draper #2 was featured, we were lucky enough to have Bar Magazine along....

Perique Tobacco Liqueur is now available from

Jade Liqueurs -

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Slideluck Potshow London and La Maison Fontaine Absinthe

I love dispensing absinthe and dispelling the myths, particularly at art events. So, I was really looking forward to going along to the annual London Slideluck Potshow. Although I hadn't heard of it before, I liked the idea of the mix of Food, Photography, Art and now Absinthe, that it offered.

The website describes perfectly what it's all about:

"Slideluck Potshow (SLPS) is a 501c3 non-profit organization dedicated to building and strengthening community through food and art. SLPS operates multimedia slideshows combined with potluck dinners in about forty cities around the world. For each event, artists submit up to five minutes worth of images and guests bring along delicious food to share. The evening begins with a couple hours of mingling and dining on home-cooked dishes, and then the lights are dimmed, the crowd is hushed, and a spectacular slideshow commences."

The food that people brought along was amazing. I don't normally eat whilst on duty but it was just too irresistible! The crowd was really great too, just the right sort of Bohemian to appreciate the finer delights of Absinthe, coupled with the Art of course.

This was still fairly early on, as food got eaten more people turned up with more food, genius! I'm not sure why this communal eating doesn't happen more often....

Here's Casey Kelbaugh introducing this year's slide show. He hosted the very first Slideluck Potshow back in 2000 in his seattle backyard to about 50 friends! From acorns eh? In the foreground is Maria Teresa Salvati, the brains behind the London gig.

This is the packed house, just before the slide show starts. Naturally I sat down to watch too, everyone was glued to the screen throughout! I have to confess to thinking the slides were all going to be about food, der! In fact, many of them were highly political, emotive, shocking, disturbing and some were even funny - but all were superbly done!. The slides for this year's London show are not up on the website yet or else I would have shared a few favourites.

On the whole, I came away thinking if I ever complain about life being a bit tough again - I'll deserve a very hard slap!

I think I heard a rumour that London may now be holding 2 events a year.... I hope that means another this year, if so I'll be back to dispense more Absinthe and hopefully see you there!

Please visit the website to find out more about Slideluck Potshow

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

SW4 - Small Batch London Dry Gin - Made in Clapham!

SW4 London Dry Gin

Sadly with the demise of the Gin and Vodka Association there seems to be far too few definitive explanations of the different EU Gin categories on the internet. In brief, there are 3; the lowest quality is Compound Gin, which has minimum abv of 37.5% and is simply alcohol with Juniper (and other) flavouring added, the next standard is Distilled Gin where the botanicals are steeped in neutral alcohol and then a secondary distillation takes place, but colour, flavourings and sugar can be added post distillation. Finally is London Dry Gin, where the botanicals are steeped in neutral alcohol, secondary distillation takes place, juniper is the dominant flavour and nothing other than water can be added post distillation. I'm sure you can make your own mind up as to which Gins fall into which category....

So, even though London Dry Gin status does not require a Gin to be made in London, there is something rather pleasing about a London Dry Gin that is. Welcome to SW4 London Dry Gin - made in Clapham. Get off the tube at Clapham North, cross the road and look for Timber Mill Way. Suddenly you are off the beaten track and are heading down an unkempt lane leading to an industrial heartland, well nearly....

To begin at the beginning of making Gin we must first look at the base alcohol. The neutral alcohol used in Gin production is to my mind, the least interesting factor. While it's essential to ensure it's of a sufficiently high quality we would not expect it to impart anything significant to the final product - hence why it's called "neutral". Neutral alcohols can be made from various ingredients; neutral grain spirit; neutral grape spirit; neutral beet spirit and molasses is also common. It's neutral because it's been distilled to a sufficiently high abv to remove any significant flavour compounds. Back in the mid nineteenth century a tradition arose whereby London Gin producers had to purchase their neutral spirit from somewhere other than where they made their Gin. This tradition was largely to do with customs not trusting the London producers to 'declare' all the alcohol produced and wanted to control (and therefore tax) the flow of alcohol coming into London. Good news for Scotland and the treasury! This tradition no longer holds with both Adnams and Chase producing their own neutral spirit on-site. However, it remains that the production of neutral spirit is largely conducted on an industrial scale and most Gin producers see no sense in starting their own production now.

SW4 London Dry Gin is made from a UK produced, 86% abv, neutral grain spirit where all the grain (predominantly wheat with some barley) is also grown in the UK. It's a nice touch to ensure a UK grown and produced grain spirit which is, just to reiterate, "neutral" because it's been multi-distilled to reach an abv of 86%.
Right, on to the interesting stuff!

Now that we have our neutral grain spirit we need our botanical bill. SW4 uses 12 different botanicals, the recipe of which was put together by Charles Maxwell (Master Distiller at Thames) and Martin Price (SW4 Brand Owner). Now any Gin producer on the whole, will tell you what their botanicals are, what they won't tell you is the ratio used - this is the "secret" part of every Gin recipe. The remit for SW4 was a "traditional style" that works really well in a Gin and Tonic.
NB: It does seem bizarre to have to say that by a "traditional style" we mean juniper dominant, I'm sure most of us would take that that as read. These days however, there are quite a few distilled Gins that are not juniper dominant, designed specifically to "open up" the Gin market. While we have to accept these commercial innovations are helping to revitalise a shrinking category it is a cause concern that now even some London Dry Gin's seem to be slipping through the "juniper" net....

Charles Maxwell describes SW4:

“SW4 London Distilled Gin, is a big and complex gin made in the style of the original London Dry Gins of the mid to late 19th Century. It has 12 botanicals in its recipe, with Juniper being heavily predominant, but then behind it come the citrus and spice notes, from botanicals such as lemon peel and cassia, which give it the fullness and complexity. The whole is then brought together by the Orris Powder.”

Just as a Master Blender pulls different barrels together to get the desired end result, so a Master Gin Distiller pulls together just the right amount of each botanical to get the exact flavour profile desired. It's not just the separate flavour profile of each botanical that counts with Gin though, it's also the way they marry together when being steeped. All the botanicals in SW4 are dried when they go into the neutral grain spirit (some brands are now using fresh) and are steeped between 12 and 15 hours. I did ask Charles if the flavour profile would improve with a longer maceration time and he assured me that much longer would lead to 'over extraction', something I hadn't considered before.

Meet "Tom Thumb", Gin Still #1 at Thames Distillers which is used to distill SW4. Gin Still #2 is called "Thumbelina" and is on hand just in case anything goes wrong with Tom Thumb, which hasn't happened yet. Tom Thumb is a small batch, (500 litre capacity, the largest is 12,000 litres) stainless steel still made by John Dore. Interestingly, John Dore is the oldest distillery engineering business in the world. The company's roots go all the way back to Aeneas Coffey, famous for patenting the first column still in 1831.

When we went to visit the distillery the distilling of SW4 had already been done, but we were on hand to watch the bottling process. So I decided to film it with my trusty Ixus...

So there you have it, SW4 Small Batch, London Dry Gin made and bottled in Clapham. Next time you're in the area and wondering where you might try some SW4 and Tonic - I can recommend popping into The Loft on Clapham High Street.


Saturday, 28 May 2011

La Maison Fontaine Absinthe at The Salusbury Wine Store - Queens Park, NW6

I don't venture up to NW6 very often - or rather hadn't until now. Now that I've discovered The Salusbury Wine Store in Salusbury Road, I think I might be in NW6 a lot more often! In previous incarnations I've run both Wine Stores and Delicatessens so I felt right at home amongst the wine and cheese.

We had arranged to do the La Maison Fontaine Absinthe tasting some weeks back and were hoping to do it outside in the, what now seemed to be normal, UK sunshine. Of course these plans were scuppered by the first bit of rain London had seen in months - and when I say rain... I mean rain!

We made up the absinthe fountain with the Fontaine of Youth - an infusion of cucumber, lemon and mint and we were off. I love talking to people about absinthe and dispelling all those myths,
"oh absinthe, it makes you mad, right?" is very common when offered a taste. "Will it make me cut my ear off?" is another classic or perhaps worse still is the "you set it on fire, right?".

Wrong! the idea that Absinthe makes you mad was largely fuelled and funded by the French wine industry trying to get back on their feet after the devastation on the phylloxera crisis of the 1860's. Phylloxera is a bug that attacks the roots of grape vines and within 25 years of its introduction the French wine industry had lost about 25 million acres of vines. Absinthe producers moved away from, the now scarce and very expensive, grape brandy to using neutral sugar beet spirit. Absinthe consequently rocketed in popularity with everyone across all sectors of French society now drinking it, simply because it was available. And, as for setting Absinthe on fire? A total invention of the 1990's, I imagine that had any one set their Absinthe alight in the 1800's, they may well have been declared mad!

Still, you don't have to take my word for it - there are some really well researched and in depth Absinthe histories out there - on the internet I'd actually recommend Wikipedia:

If you only ever buy one book on Absinthe make sure it is Barnaby Conrad III's "Absinthe, History in a Bottle" - written in 1988 - before the internet, it's an extremely well researched and original work (unlike a lot on the internet). The only flaw is the last section on the science of thujone which has since been updated - if interested, take a look here:

Recently released is the film "Absinthe" - a documentary by Chris Buddy, again, exceptionally well researched and well crafted - it delivers a comprehensive account of Absinthe's history from the beginning to the present day in a mere 70 mins! You can see the trailer on their website:

We're going to have a public showing of the film in June, do get in touch if interested.

So, after introducing The Salusbury Wine Store customers to a taste of La Maison Fontaine and a quick, myth exploding, potted history of Absinthe, we made quite a few new friends!

Here's Jez and Adam, now huge fans of La Maison Fontaine!

We are planning to go back to the Salusbury Wine Store to introduce some more of their customers to the delights of La Maison Fontaine (and so I can buy some more of their amazing cheese and wine) we will let you know when. Meanwhile, if you're in the area do pop in and get some great wine recommendations from Chris or Mattieu, there is only one Absinthe you would want to buy of course!

The Salusbury Wine Store

50 Salusbury Road

Queens Park


Telephone - 020 7372 6664

If you would like a La Maison Fontaine tasting in your Shop, Bar or at an Event or any further information please email me at:

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

La Maison Fontaine Absinthe at The Box, Soho

If you haven't heard, The Box recently opened in London's Soho, (where have you been?) Since it opened it has been splashed all over the papers with London's glitterati getting papped outside - 22nd February 2011 with many more partying on the inside - (Evening Standard) 22nd February 2011. Indeed, even before it opened its doors it was seriously news worthy - Friday 28th January 2011.

Apologies for the rubbish pictures but they just don't have any bright lights in there and given they have a NO camera, NO phone, NO Blackberry policy - I was lucky to get anything....
With its decadent mix of Burlesque, Cabaret and Vaudeville acts on offer it is an obvious place to try the delights of La Maison Fontaine Absinthe..... We've installed the LMF Fountain upstairs, so if and when you are lucky enough to find yourself in The Box - do take a wander up there.....and look for this door to venture through....

Monday, 7 March 2011

La Maison Fontaine® Takes Gold at the London Absinthe Masters 2011

La Maison Fontaine® Takes Gold at the London Absinthe Masters 2011

Last month the great and good of the Absinthe world gathered for the prestigious Absinthe Masters 2011. This competition recognises and celebrates masters in their fields, giving credit and recognition to the brands that are the true pioneers of their worlds. La Maison Fontaine® took Gold in the Design Category and a Silver in the non-coloured spirit category.

These latest accolades mean since launching a little over six months ago, La Maison Fontaine® has already won 3 Golds; Best in Class & Gold at the International Wine and Spirits Competition (IWSC), Golden Spoon at world renowned 2010 Absinthiades, and now Gold (and a Silver) at the Absinthe Masters.

La Maison Fontaine® is gathering recognition and respect with key industry influencers since launching last August. Brian Robinson Editor of the Wormwood Society, ranked La Maison Fontaine® as the 2nd favourite Blanche Absinthe of all time. Giving it 4.7/5 out of a possible 5 Stars (with a maximum 5 Stars in 5 of the 7 categories) out of 7 categories. Our White Fairy can now be found in some of London’s leading bars including Bar Boulud and The Mandarin Bar at Mandarin Oriental, 22 Below, The Bathhouse, Nightjar, Roka, Paramount, Purl, and McQueen.

Mark Stringer Founding Director “We’ve been amazed and exceptionally grateful for the level of support that we’ve been getting since we launched last August. To have won 3 Gold Medals, A Best in Class and a Silver so quickly is fantastic. We always thought that we had something special so it’s nice that such leading luminaries agree”

• Spirit Business Judges included Patience Gould, editor of Spirits Business, Keith Lyon, Independent Spirits consultant (Ex Spirits Buyer for Waitrose) and Nick Quatroville from "W" hotel.

• La Maison Fontaine® 56% ABV, is an ultra premium artisan Absinthe handcrafted amongst the beautiful Jura Mountains in Pontarlier France, a place renowned for its Absinthe history.

• Distilled in the oldest Absinthe stills in the world, La Maison Fontaine® has been masterfully refined using 15 natural herbs. Some we’re keeping secret, others we’re happy to shout about – notably, our world-renowned Pontarlier-grown Grande Absinthe, which, together with green anise and fennel, is the “holy trinity” of any real absinthe.

• As well as delivering a traditional Absinthe we’ve created La Maison Fontaine® as a wonderfully versatile spirit that can be mixed into an array of sublime cocktails. We call this The Art of Imagination and we’ve put a few of our favourites on our website:

• We’ve been working with one of London’s leading “tastemakers” and cocktail writer, Allan Gage, to help develop a number of signature drinks that are perfect for the global premium bar scene.

Monday, 28 February 2011

La Maison Fontaine at The Chelsea Brasserie

There's nothing I love more than talking about Absinthe, so the 3rd March got off to a great start! I arrived at Chelsea Brasserie in Sloane Square at 9am to train the staff on the wonderful ways of Absinthe and the delights of La Maison Fontaine.

The team were delightful and very enthusiastic. Tasting Absinthe at that time in the morning is not to everyone's taste, apart from the true adventurer of course. We even made up The Fontaine of Youth to demonstate the versatility of having a fountain in place and the perfect serve.

So, next time you're Sloaning around The Square do pop in to say hi and try some La Maison Fontaine.

The Bar Team at Chelsea Brasserie:

Cesar Vandamme
Beka Khmaladze
Peter Pusztai

Great Cocktails at The Bathhouse on a Friday with La Maison Fontaine Absinthe and SW4 Gin

This is not the first time I've featured The Bathhouse on these pages and I have to say I'm very pleased to be featuring them again. The reason this time is we are working alongside them on Fridays to provide a great cocktail containing firm favourite La Maison Fontaine Absinthe and other guest spirits for a bit of variety. This month we are working with SW4 London Dry Gin which is quite fitting for the Bathhouse because:

"SW4 London Distilled Gin, is a big and complex gin made in the style of the original London Dry Gins of the mid to late 19th Century. It has 12 botanicals in its recipe, with Juniper being heavily predominant, but then behind it come the citrus and spice notes, from botanicals such as lemon peel and cassia, which give it the fullness and complexity. The whole is then brought together by the Orris Powder."

"Distilled gins of this style pre-date the Cocktail era of the early 20th Century, which tended to give rise to the somewhat austere and less complex gins of that time. The older style gins being made to show at their best when mixed with water, ginger beer and most especially tonic, that eponymous drink of the British Empire. SW4 has taken this heritage and using up to date small batch distillation techniques brings you the 21st century version of the classic original gin style."

"Nestled in the shadows of the City, The Bathhouse sits within Bishopsgate Churchyard, a surviving treasure from Victorian East London. Hearkening back to the near-forgotten days of iniquity and indulgence, this late night establishment provides live music, performance and entertainment. Stepping into the 19th century Kiosk with it’s deceptively small exterior is like entering another era all together, descend the staircase, move beneath the streets of the City and a cavernous space opens before you. The historically listed building has been subtly enhanced, retaining the strong undercurrents of the Victorian era that revelled in anatomy, erotica and botanicals."

"In stark architectural contrast to its neighbouring buildings, The Bathhouse is an undiscovered beauty that is more than just a bar, a restaurant or an entertainment space, tighten your corset for a decadent step back in time."

"The interior design was lavish in its style, no expense was spared on plush velvet carpets, marbled mosaic floors, walls adorned with hand crafted tiles and decorative faience columns. Turkish Baths were an important part of a modern City Gent’s life in Victorian London; they not only provided services to relax and unwind but also served as a medical aide. The Bathhouse created “an arena in which health, pleasure, culture and curiosity could collide; a mystical world far from the restrictive, Victorian society in which it could be found”.

"With the arrival of the fifties, popularity for this kind of leisure and the need for Iodine Liquid Baths and Mercurial Vapour Baths were no longer so great. After a tough 1952 Budget it was deemed foolish to renew the lease on the establishment and by 1954 the Bathhouse stood empty."

"Gathering dust, the building was used a storage space for nearly twenty years after its closure, keeping all of its original features in tact. In the 1970s the doors were swung open once more, the Bathhouse enjoying a new lease of life as a restaurant. It has played host to hundreds of diners daily until February 2009."

"It is now however that the venue is being restored to its former glory. Opulence, decadence and sumptuous furnishings are the order of the day. The Bathhouse is once more the indulgent City hide away that it once was – we are however giving the Needle Baths a wide berth."

On Fridays the venue gets taken over by the wonderful Boom Boom Club:

This months Cocktail is a variation on The London Cocktail from The Savoy Cocktail Book, Harry Craddock, 1930

The City of London Cocktail

2 Dashes La Maison Fontaine Absinthe
1/3 SW4 London Dry Gin
Grapefruit Juice
2 Dashes Gomme Syrup
2 Dashes Orange Bitters

Shake well over ice, strain into an ice filled high ball and top with grapefruit juce, garnish with grapefruit zest.

I hope to see you there.......

Monday, 24 January 2011

Marian Beke of Nightjar creates an "Absinthe Orgy" for La Maison Fontaine.

Apologies for the bad photography but hey, Nightjar is discreet and uber cool, glaring lights would just not work. This has been a favourite bar of mine for quite a while now and I'm not alone, every review I've read has been positively glowing!

I recently asked Marian to come up with a La Maison Fontaine cocktail which he kindly obliged, the deal was - he'd come up with the drink, and I had to come up with the name. Now you'll have to forgive me but when looking at the ingredients the first two things were Absinthe and Orgeat, so "Absinthe Orgy" popped into my mind and wouldn't leave.... Marian liked the name, so Absinthe Orgy it became.

Absinthe Orgy by Marian Beke

37.5ml La Maison Fontaine Absinthe

17.5ml Orgeat (homemade at Nightjar

Half Fresh Lime Juice

Dash Orange Bitters

Egg White

Shake all the ingredients hard over ice and strain into glass, garnish with a sprig of fresh mint.

The drink is amazingly smooth, complex and very well balanced. We joked with Edmund that there should be a minimum purchase of 4 to be true to the cocktail name!

Another of my favourite Nightjar drinks, thanks to Dan Priseman for putting me onto this one!

Remember the Maine

Four Roses Small Batch Bourbon
Sweet Vermouth
La Maison Fontaine Absinthe
Cherry Brandy

Stir slowly for good dilution and strain, garnish with cherries.

The drinks name refers to the USS Maine that was sunk off the shores of Havana in 1898, which ultimately sparked the Spanish - American War of the same year. It was however, in 1933 that the global imbiber and author of "The Gentleman's Companion: An Exotic Drinking Book," Charles H. Baker Jr. created the drink off the shores of Cuba during a night of intense bombing. What's interesting and left unexplained is Baker actually specified the drink had to be stirred clockwise....

Next up Marian got creative at the bar with eggs, Wray and Nephew Overproof, sugar and a blow torch... take my word for it, it was delicious!

Thursday, 13 January 2011

Alessandro Paludet from 22 Below and his La Maison Fontaine Absinthe Old Fashioned

22 Below, just off Carnaby Street, is a real hidden gem with a very cosy atmosphere. Alessandro and Emelie run a tight ship and have developed a pretty comprehensive cocktail list. They have a gentleman's corner section with real classics such as a Sazerac and a Martinez. There's also a tiki page and on Thursdays - all tiki jars are only £5! Of course it was the absinthe section that I wanted to check out and above Alessandro is beginning to make the La Maison Fontaine Old Fashioned. The first ever Absinthe Old Fashioned as far as I'm concerned!

Now as you probably know Old Fashioneds take a while to make with the slow building and gradual dilution so while Alessandro cracked on with it I noticed the above contraptions. Test tubes with their own holders which are to be filled with iced water for an unsual perfect serve drip with your 'dose' of absinthe - novel indeed!

La Maison Fontaine Old Fashioned

35ml La Maison Fontaine
15 ml cold mineral water
few dashes mint bitters
fresh mint garnish

Quite simply make in the same way as a traditional old fashioned, by slowly building all the ingredients into a rocks glass stirring all the time while gradually adding ice. Not only is this quite original I'm certain it's the first LMF "white" absinthe cocktail to be green!

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

John Leese of McQueen mixes a "Le Lapin de la Maison" for Chinese New Year

I've known John Leese for some time now and he has quite a track record - Match W1, Mahiki and Viajante are just some that spring to mind. He is now the bar manager at McQueen in Shoreditch - a favourite venue of mine that has appeared on these pages several times before with Theo (who incidentally, is still at McQueen).

I asked John to make a La Maison Fontaine cocktail for Chinese New Year (the year of the rabbit - 3rd February) and this is what he came up with:

"Le Lapin de la Maison"

Google hilariously translates as "The House Bunny"

35ml La Maison Fontaine Absinthe

10ml lime juice

15ml elderflower cordial

20ml apple juice

40ml Sauvignon Blanc

Shake all the ingredients over ice, strain into a high ball and serve with an apple garnish - simples!