Posted on

Nottingham Forest Bar – Milan, Italy

In the middle of November 2016, The World’s 50 Best Bars website released their annual list. With New York and London strongly represented throughout the list, RumCask came across a bar in Milan called Nottingham Forest residing at number 38  (a regular since 2007!). This was of great interest as we were heading to Milan later that week anyway, and where better to have a cocktail or few?

Run by Dario Comino, this bar is known as the Cathedral of Italian bartending expression. The bar, and indeed Dario, focus on the science behind cocktails. A lovely intimate venue here with space for 20-30 people only and with a queue from the moment it opens (actually before it opens), this is not a venue to turn up late to!

Thankfully we got there 15 minutes before opening time and there were already 4 people ahead of us in the queue. We walked in and grabbed a nice cosy pair of seats with a good view of the bar. Nottingham Forest is full of wares from Dario’s travels and over 2000 bottles of spirits, an impressive showing indeed!

We were thankful as they also had an English cocktail menu, but I was forewarned it wasn’t as extensive as the native Italian version. The menu showcased a variety of different techniques used in the creation of some cocktail masterpieces which include spherification and cryogenics amongst others.

wp-1479736742379.jpgThe first cocktail was of course rum based. Well more specifically, white rhum. This was mixed with cranberry and ginger beer and was one of the Cryogenic cocktails aptly named “Chernobyl.” They use compressed CO2 which sublimates when used in a drink to pass directly from a solid to a gas, bypassing the liquid state creating white smog which they say is similar to “Merlin’s magic potions.”

wp-1479736738544.jpg

We also ordered a “Box” cocktail. This cocktail uses other senses to induce travel memories by mixing perfume and tastes in small Indian wooden cases with unusual incenses. We chose the Thai box which was vodka based and infused with passion fruit, although they had a Mandela box with liquorice infused and a Bombay box with Mango infused.

Both cocktails were beautifully presented. The Chernobyl was in a skull head glass with the cocktail bubbling throughout. The box arrived, well, in a box which the incense and a fortune cookie. As it was opened the aroma poured out and surrounded you, giving your senses an appreciation of Thailand before the first sip met your lips. A great couple of cocktails to start!

From here we had some of the complimentary nibbles and moved along to the next couple of choices. As you can imagine, we were looking forward to round 2. We decided on the “Message in a bottle” and “The Cube.”

wp-1479736746478.jpgThe message in a bottle is a cocktail in a glass bottle with a paper message on the side infused with aroma. You can place this message into the bottle to give it the authentic feel and let the aroma blend with the cocktail. Alternatively you can eat it separately from the drink and it will give you a similar experience. The options you have on the cocktail are light and fruity, medium or dry. We opted for the dry version.

wp-1479736731223.jpg

The Cube cocktail comes in a crystal cube with a pipette on the side. Before, during or after each sip, you can add a small amount of the pipette into the drink or your mouth. A little bit of work, but the result should yield a different flavour each time. A very interesting concept.

Once again the presentation was astounding when the cocktails arrived. Both looked as good as they tasted. The message for the bottle was “save the world.” A sentiment although vague, is something nobody can’t argue with. I’m sure these are usually in Italian so we appreciated the fact it was written in English. We promptly added this to the glass bottle to allow the aromas to infuse well. The dry cocktail was a nice change to the fruity Chernobyl from earlier. The Cube was miraculous in how the flavour changed after each drop of the pipette on the side. A great cocktail extremely well executed.

img_20161118_204902.jpgFour cocktails in and we had time for another one each. We decided to go off-piste and ask the bartender for something he thought we would like. A quick chat on what we liked and he had an idea of what to make. He returned with a large box that contained a couple of cocktails. He told us the picture opportunity will come the moment he opened the box and we got ready. He revealed a twist on the famous rum cocktail called the Hurricane. The twist was that it was infused with pink pepper and gentian violet via a method of sous-vide and garnished with star anise. Finally it was smoked with Marijuana. This cocktail fitted in perfectly with what we had tasted so far.

Staying with the theme of the evening, the presentation and taste of the hurricane was superb. This goes to prove as well as their set menu, they can create masterpieces on the spot to suit your taste profile. Well played Nottingham Forest, well played.

As we left the bar we saw a queue of about 30 people. Quite amazing seeing as the bar wasn’t jam packed inside. We were told this is because they limit the number of people in the bar and give you the best experience possible. They don’t rush you or even let you know there are people waiting outside. You are there to enjoy the experience, not to be rushed in and out.

Overall, Nottingham Forest clearly takes a lot of pride in all aspects of the cocktail experience for the patron. From the visual elements, to the smells and aromas, to the taste, each cocktail takes you on a journey. A journey which we will be revisiting on every trip to Milan, without fail. If you’re ever in the city, or even close, make the trip to the bar. You won’t be sorry. Just be sure not to turn up too late!

Posted on

The Rum & Crab Shack – St Ives, Cornwall

As some of you may know, RumCask spent some time in Cornwall recently and ended up in St Ives along the pier at the Rum & Crab Shack. A great location on the harbour and a unique selling point of having a wide selection of rum with their food – they were guaranteed a visit from me!

The Rum & Crab Shack was established in St Ives in 2012 by a team of four who were drinking rum and had a light-bulb moment to combined rum with their other favourite thing – crab.

The restaurant is set on the first floor, which is ideal to give the patrons a nice view. The house rum there is Dead Man’s Fingers which is a small batch spiced rum created by the shack itself. The menu is full of fresh seafood as expected, with a section dedicated to lobster and crab. They have a bar area where you can come in for a drink, or wait to be seated for food (no reservations here, first come, first served!).

As you may have seen on our Instagram, the first drink we tried was the house cocktail, ‘dead mans grip.’ It’s a mixture of lemon and lime juice, passion fruit syrup, Benedictine, peach bitters and egg whites along with the house rum. A delicious and incredibly moreish cocktail that seemed to drink itself!

The staff on the restaurant side were also warm and welcoming. Even though they seemed full, they managed to squeeze us in for a table for some dinner, which was hugely appreciated. It was definitely a busy night when we were told 3 of the dishes we wanted were sold out. We settled on the Whitebait and the Rum and Crab soup to start. This was followed by the Crab Claws and the Lobster Mac & Cheese. The standout dishes were the Whitebait and the Crab Claws. A top meal to accompany the rum.

The dessert is where they really excelled. Torn between the ‘Espresso Yourself’ cocktail and the Rum Cake, a tough decision was made, with the Rum Cake being the winner. Topped with cream cheese frosting and served with Cornish vanilla ice cream, the rum (dead man’s fingers) and vanilla soaked cake was sublime. A great way to round off the meal.

Another point worth mentioning is the price of the rum in the bar. This was extremely competitively priced, and much lower than I expected. If you would like to try a variety of rums without breaking the bank, then the bar here is worth the visit.

Overall, a very enjoyable visit to a very cool rum bar which as a bonus does really tasty food with amazing views. An all round winner in our book, make sure you go down and check it out!

Posted on

Trailer Happiness

Trailer Happiiness

Two weeks ago, after a night out with friends for a reunion, the stragglers from the group (including yours truly) were determined for the evening not to end and made our way to Notting Hill. One of the group had recently been to a bar there and thought it would be the ideal place to continue the night. That bar was Trailer Happiness located on the very hip and trendy, Portobello Road.

So impressed were we by our experience that evening, we decided to go back 5 days later with our RumCask.com hats on and notebooks and pens at the ready! On our previous visit, Trailer Happiness’ enigmatic barmen, Sergio and Ronan had really impressed with their knowledge and passion for all things rum and it was with Sergio that we sat down for the second round (no pun intended).

Trailer Happiness is an “intimate lounge bar, den and kitchen” that serves some seriously wicked cocktails with a “Tiki twist”. Let’s not get things confused at this point. Whilst you are welcomed by a life sized plastic model of a topless woman, flower in hair, dressed only in a grass skirt and a colourful garland at the top of the stairs the bar (located downstairs) is no cheesy, faux-Mãori setup. In fact what we discover is a dimly lit, wonderfully eclectic room with ample seating and space for 70+ (at a guess) to sip great drinks and party the night away. For sure, the music at Trailer Happiness is taken very seriously and the mix of Blues, Hip-Hop, Funk and several other genres really gets the crowd jamming!

Specialising in rum but with an appreciation for “all quality spirits, wine, champagne & beer” the bar itself is a wonderful sight. A strong affiliation with Bacardi and probably the widest variety of Plantation rums I’ve ever seen (12+ at a glance) sets the tone. Then we see spectrums of Doorly’s, Chairman’s Reserve, Havana Club, Ron Barcelo, Don Q, English Harbour, Pussers and many more. Not just single bottles but a genuine granularity and depth of offerings from each marquee brand. The bar even has an offering of rarer rhum agricoles such as Homere Clement and Karukera. All this complimented by ranges of Jack Daniels, Hennessy and Patron amongst others. I think I’m in heaven and it’s got a bar!

Sipping many of these fine rums would have been an adequate approach to the task however we’d have learned nothing about the bar. The task here was to probe the personality and passion of Trailer Happiness and its bar tenders (Sergio hates the words “mixologist”) so we rolled up our sleeves and sampled some of their cocktails.

1) Myrtle Bank Punch

Over-Proof Rum (Woods, Plantation, Smith & Cross)

Homemade Pomegranate Syrup

Lime

Angostura Bitters

Absinth

Wow. What a punch! The three over-proofs are not messing around. Packed with crushed ice and served very tall this is the cocktail to take you into another gear. Lovely sweetness from the pomegranate syrup and a hint of banana from the Smith & Cross. Caveat emptor, this is not for amateurs!

2)     Hotel Nacional Special

Aged Cuban Style Rum (Bacardi 8)

Apricot Liquor

Pineapple Juice

Dried Lime

From research this cocktail first appears in Charles H. Baker’s ‘The Gentlemen’s Companion’ (1939). Sergio however informs us that the drink in fact pre-dates this book and is from 1921 Prohibition era. The Hotel Nacional in Cuba would serve this as a sort of “welcome drink” for the American Mafia. The history of this drink could not fail to impress and neither could Sergio’s take on it. Chilled, sweet with a wonderful acidity on the final part of the sip. Beautifully and elegantly presented.

3)     Zombie

Over-Proof Rum (Woods and Smith & Cross)

Plantation Original Dark

Bacardi Gold & White

Homemade Pomegranate Syrup

Grapefruit Juice

Lime

Cinnamon Syrup

Cinnamon Shake

Falernum Syrup

Whilst this is not a cocktail we tried, it’s one we watched Sergio create for other revellers and the spectacle left us gob-smacked. As Zombies go, we’ve seen nothing like it. The initial construction was none-too-different from the Rum Punch. Heaps of ice and plenty of the over-proof..! The drink appears balanced from the sweetness of the dark rum, the bitterness of the grapefruit, acid from the limes, almonds and ginger from the Falernum, through to the sweet & spicy cinnamon syrup. The crescendo in the preparation of the drink is when Sergio lets the cinnamon shake rain down over the drink through a huge blast of fire from his blow torch! The sparks and theatre leave everyone in awe.

4)     Corn’n’Oil

Bacardi 8

El Dorado 8

Falernum

Angostura Bitters

Lime Twist

We asked Sergio to make us a “girly drink”. Bad move! We quickly discovered another thing Sergio hated and that is gender-defining drinks. We felt rather embarrassed to say the least. Thankfully, Sergio being the consummate professional he is, enlightened us to the scientific notion of ‘Supertasters’.  A person who has a sense of taste, far more acute than the average is a supertaster and women are more likely than men to have this heightened sense. As a result, they are more likely to experience unpleasant bitter tastes than the boys and are steered towards sweeter drinks at some subconscious level.

Enter Corn’n’Oil. Traditionally served over ice but Trailer Happiness will present it to you in a lovely, chilled martini glass with an exquisite twist of lime. The beautiful demerara flavour of the El Dorado 8 year really shines through and the cocktail is wonderfully balanced. If you enjoy an Old Fashioned, this is not a million miles away to our mind.

We could go on and on here. Trailer Happiness has become somewhat of an institution and we cannot see that changing any time soon. However as with any great establishment, the staff are its greatest asset and for that reason alone you should head down there, kick back to some Jazz and Groove, and let us know if that Zombie tasted as good as it looked!

Posted on

Rum Kitchen – Kingly Court, Carnaby Street

Last week I had an opportunity to visit The Rum Kitchen in Carnaby Street with a friend. Their flagship store opened in Notting Hill a few years back which I have been to numerous times, however this was the first time I had managed to visit the one in Carnaby Street. The “Kitchen” is based in Kingly Court and on the 1st Floor so the windows give a nice view of the court itself.

I didn’t realise that it was happy hour during my time there so I decided to stick to that menu for the first couple of drinks and see where it lead me. I started with their Daiquiri which is made with Santa Teresa Claro Rum. I am a big fan of Santa Teresa as you can tell from my review of their bi-centenario which can be found here. I haven’t actually had a Daiquiri with this particular rum so I ordered it without my usual way of asking for different rum to be used.

The daiquiri that came was exactly how I like mine. Clean, refreshing and not overdone. The rum worked very well with the lime and sugar and it drank itself (along with the other two that I ordered afterwards!). The sugar used helped to take off enough of the sharp edge of the lime, which then complimented the rum. I haven’t had the Venezuelan Santa Teresa Claro neat, but I know it has been aged for a bit longer than most white rums for about three years so the youthful harshness that most white rums have would be minimal anyway. It is charcoal filtered to help minimise the darker colour and leave it clear, not white but rather a very light golden appearance. This is a very good example of a daiquiri that I would recommend to anybody.I also managed to have a bit of food whilst there with the BBQ pork ribs and the jerk chicken wings. They arrived after the first cocktail. The ribs were delicious, two large ribs with plenty of meat seasoned well. The wings were also very good and the jerk seasoning complimented them well.

One thing worth mentioning is that Plantation Rum has exclusively produced a 25 year old blend from Trinidad made for them. It is available in servings or by the bottle at either £12.50/25ml or £150 for the bottle. I missed my opportunity to sample this, but it’s on my list on my next visit.

Overall, the Rum Kitchen is a very nice place to get some lovely food and great cocktails. Fun atmosphere, great service and a large rum collection – my kind of place!

Posted on

Merchant House Bar

A couple of days ago we had the opportunity to visit Merchant House in London, who claim to have one of the largest collections of Rum (and Gin) in the World. As you can imagine, we were excited when a friend suggested it to us. It has been on the to-do list recently and we jumped at the opportunity.

The bar is downstairs with the entrance and small shop upstairs. The shop has a few bottles of spirits for sale including the St Nicholas Abbey 10 year which can be difficult to get hold of. The cocktail bar is downstairs and has a variety of bottles along the walls and in cabinets throughout to entice those who even have a passing care in them.

After speaking to the bartender we decided to start with a Botran 12 year (made in Guatemala) and have a look through their collection on the shelves and cabinets to see if they had anything we hadn’t seen before or anything they would recommend to an enthusiast like myself. A quick look round left us a tad disappointed with the selection. They had a large collection indeed, but nothing we didn’t own or hadn’t tried before. Nothing rare or unique jumped out at the team.

After a quick chat with the lovely and very knowledgeable Welsh waitress Daisy, she asked if we had seen their special cabinet at the back of the bar. It contained their rarest and most expensive spirit selection and had quite a few unique rums and she was sure there would be a few we hadn’t seen or tried. She was right.

The cabinet contained quite a few rare rums including Uitvlugt 1997 ULR (59.7%) from the Demerara distillers in Guyana (also home to El Dorado), a selection of Samaroli rum (This company is originally from Italy and the rum is matured in Scotland), Damoiseau Rhum Vieux Millesime 1991 from Guadalupe and Black Tot last Consignment. A proud selection indeed!

We decided to try the Uitvlugt 1997 ULR (review here), and then enjoyed a cocktail of the bartenders choosing which was his personal twist on a Dark ‘n’ Stormy (n.b. wasn’t called a dark ‘n’ stormy). We also decided to try the Empire Old Fashioned with different bases of rums and under guidance used Botran 12 and Diplomatico Reserva Exclusiva.

Overall it’s an excellent bar with a superb variety of rums available. If you are in London we highly recommend a visit. Great atmosphere, great location and great rum, what more do you need?