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Food in and with cocktails

There has always been a separation between the bar and the kitchen. In the past, people have never really loved the idea of mixing food in their drinks. However, it is now 2018 and times have most definitely changed. The infusion of fresh-food, including savoury flavours in cocktails has increased massively.

Whether it’s crushed grapefruit, fresh herbs and spices, fish (who doesn’t love a good Oyster Shooter?) or fat washing.

Seeing as quality produce and especially alcohol are two of the things that we Brits pride ourselves on, we have nothing but good feelings about this trend.

Not confident in putting food in your cocktail, you could just as easily think about pairing cocktails with your dishes, what better way to enhance the experience of your next dinner party. To help here are some hints and tips to consider.

Use logic

You don't have to be a master mixologist to dream up exciting pairings. "Just think about association of flavour" says Tom Smith, Funkin Ambassador. Olive oil in a dish might take you to lemon. If you're working with butter sauce, you might want to use vanilla.

Compare and contrast

A cocktail can complement a dish by either matching or contrasting its flavours. People who do barbecue pairings will often use bourbon as the smoky flavour of the meat goes well with the smoky, woody flavour of the spirit. If you have something spicy, like a Vindaloo choose something with cooling flavours, like our Funkin Mojito - you could even add a sprinkling of cumin to create an alcoholic take on the Nimbu Pani.

Add herbs

Mint gives Juleps and Mojitos a delightful boost, so why stop there? Herbs are an excellent way to bond cocktails with food, matching similar flavours and herbs to add an extra layer of complexity to your cocktail.

Some interesting ones to consider include sage with tequila and gin with rosemary. Incorporating herbs into cocktails doesn't always mean muddling; sometimes just a sprig as garnish provides the aromatic touch you need.

Ease up on the alcohol

Cocktails are lower in alcohol than most people think. After a spirit is combined with citrus juice and simple syrup, then diluted from being shaken or stirred with ice the resulting drink's alcohol content can be as low as, if not lower than, 20 percent, closer to wine. Still, you don't want to pair a particularly alcoholic cocktail, such as an Old Fashioned, with a dish that has especially subtle flavours.

And most importantly keep an open mind, cocktails like dinner parties are about having fun, nothing worse than stressing about it.

Here are a few examples to get you thinking:

DIY Bacony Booze
Using a technique called "fat-washing" bartenders are lending meaty undertones to alcohol with pork products. It's not like biting into a pork chop we promise. The taste is more of a smoky background note rather than a smack-you-in-the-face sip of bacon. In particular whisky’s, bourbon and tequila stand up to the robust flavour best.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups - spirit
  • 1/2 ounce rendered liquid bacon fat - not smoked
    directions
  • Mix ingredients and refrigerate or freeze for 6-12 hours until the fat solidifies. Strain through a coffee filter and refrigerate or freeze for up to 1 week

Cultured Cocktails
While cream is the main ingredient in several classic drinks, yoghurt brings a thicker, creamy viscosity and adds an unusual, lip-smacking tartness to cocktails and mocktails. Yogurt's tanginess also helps to balance out sweet fruit or liqueurs, so perfect for those that enjoy their cocktails a little less sweet. Try it with our passion fruit martini pre-batch mixer.

Marmalade Mixer
Marmalade adds a touch of sweet -- without diluting your drink. It's shelf-stable, widely available and found in so many delicious flavours. Swish a small amount into drinks to add flavour, richness and body. Use a shaker to integrate the marmalade, then strain to remove any fruit chunks.

Garnishes From Your Grocery Bag
a. Swizzle with Pickles
Crack open a jar of pickled veggies, like okra, baby carrots or asparagus spears, in addition to cucumbers. Skewer and leave out for guests to use as edible stirrers.

b. Rim with Fresh Herbs
Rinse and dry fresh herbs completely, then finely chop. Mix them with salt or your favourite ground spice to rim cocktail glasses.

c. Float in Sliced Veggies
Leap beyond lemons and limes: Try thinly sliced vegetables, like fennel in a martini or a firm green tomato in a bloody mary.

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Investigating flavour, traditions and technologies at Empirical Spirits

 

I guess of one the best traits of being a bartender is how versatile our jobs can be and where they can take us. One of the most recent ventures for me personally, after winning Funkin Innovation Championship 2017, was travelling to Copenhagen and spending 2 weeks there training at the Empirical Spirits distillery established by the former head of research and development of NOMA.

They are well known for creating a new spirit category called “freeform” which in its own sense adds no restrictions or regulations towards what they produce - they distill kombucha and use it to rectify spirits for instance; and overall the emphasis is on the flavour of the drink only.

At Empirical Spirits, in their own words, they investigate flavour, traditions, technologies, and techniques from across the globe. There is no “neutral grain spirits” at Empirical — from milling, to brewing, fermenting and distilling, they take full control of their product in order to extract and enhance flavour at every step of the process. The distillery uses a custom built vacuum still for distilling their spirits which allows them to do so under a lover temperature — around 15C (as opposed to 80C under atmospheric pressure) which allows them to capture the more floral notes and volatiles that the yeast produce durifermentation and ‘fresh’ or earthy flavours of seasonal botanicals and barley.

Empirical Spirits uses barley koji, replacing the traditional germination process with the inoculation of the Aspergillus Oryzae fungi onto the pearl barley which, as a result, produces the enzymes required for the breakdown of the starches into sugars. Koji is a traditional Far Eastern fermentation method used for, amongst other things, sake, shoyu, miso and amazake production. For the healthy koji to form, the right environment needs to be created. With 60% humidity and the temperature of around 33C, the koji room looks and feels much like a sauna. Barley koji forms into large dry lumps, covered in light and “healthy looking” white, fluffy fungus and it tastes, pleasantly sweet, floral and all-round unusual.

 

 

On the second week of me being at Empirical Spirits Funkin team organised an Innovation Lab to the local bar community in Manchester, where Ally Kelsey of Crucible presented his research about balancing sugars and acids in mixed drinks and a Michelin-starred chef, Nurdin Topham, cooked some tasty Funkin toastie (you read it well — Funkin PRO Apricot Puree dehydrated leather and cheese toastie!). Luckily, I managed to get a day off at the distillery and on Monday night I flew to Manchester for 1 night to attend the event and present my drinks for it. I thought it  would be great to introduce part of the Empirical Spirits portfolio to the attendees, so I created an additional low ABV drink using Charlene McGee smoked juniper expression which holds strong notes of peat on the nose, but gently releases sweet-savoury, smooth and nutty notes on the palate. I mixed it with Funkin Pro Beetroot Shrub, reduced quince kombucha glaze and soda. The quince glaze which is a bi product of Empirical is sweet and abundantly astringent, which is why I did not find it necessary to use any citrus in the drink. The natural sweetness of the beetroot balanced well with acid in the Shrub really complimented the strong smoked juniper in the spirit with light and non-intrusive vegetal note.

Funkin creates purees and syrups based on fresh produce, trying to capture the flavour of the fruit at its peak and bottle it up for us to use, this is why I thought that mixing Funkin with Empirical Spirits was a great idea — both focus on extracting and preserving “real” flavour and maximising the sensory experience of the drinker. I look forward to using Funkin PRO together with other Empirical Spirits expressions for unusual, complex and satisfying cocktails.

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7 of the best cocktail bars in London

With so many cocktail joints in the capital, it can be difficult to sort the great from the grim. To help, our team of Funkin bartenders have pulled together a list of our favourite cocktail bars in London to help you plan the perfect night out.


Nuala, Old Street

#cheers

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Much more than your average Irish watering hole. the cocktail menu at Nuala has a real sense of fun. ‘The Straight Up Serve’ is the perfect example, made with Greenspot Irish whiskey, Guinness and Black House vermouth. You don’t get much more Irish than that!

“A special mention should go to one of the bartenders, who not only made me one of the
best old fashioned cocktails I've had, but also made multiple excellent whisky
recommendations including a Tullamore Dew 14 and a delicious Glenfarclas 25.”Mike S
via TripAdvisor

Our favourite cocktail: ‘The Highball Serve’— Bertha’s Revenge gin, fino sherry, orgeat,
parsnip, green apple, gentian and tarragon.
Perfect for: Food and drinks with friends
Venue style: Bar and restaurant


The Worship Street Whistling Shop, City of London

The Worship Street Whistling Shop is a quirky Victorian-inspired cocktail bar situated
between trendy Shoreditch and the bustle of the City of London. A Low-lit, bare-brick, cellar
bar serving reinvented classic cocktails. Reminiscent of the gin palaces and dram shops of
old.

“The cocktails are like nothing you've ever had before! The staff are so knowledgeable and
friendly, the bar is beautiful and it's so seductive, you could stay there all night! Go! You
won't regret it!”Claire A via TripAdvisor

Our favourite cocktail: The ‘Ibaraki’ — Jinzu gin, polelo Jinro soju, Mugisha water, cherry
blossom tea, IPA reduction and salt.
Perfect for: Gin, gin and more gin.
Venue style: Cocktail bar


Red Rooster, Shoreditch

Harlem in the heart of Shoreditch. The Red Rooster at The Curtain Hotel serves a tantalising
range of simple spritz, sour and savoury cocktails. The food on offer is an amazing
concoction of authentic southern soul food with Nordic influences. Where else could you
enjoy gospel music over brunch? An edgy venue from acclaimed New York chef and
restaurateur, Marcus Samuelsson.

“The cocktails, food, atmosphere are straight out of Harlem with a distinctive East London
twist. The waiters were chatty, friendly and the right level of attentive, and reserved us a
space at the bar from 9pm so that we could listen to the live music and enjoy some more
cocktails.”KittyandSimonP via TripAdvisor

Our favourite cocktail: The ‘Original Webb Fizz’ — Bombay Sapphire, Harlem bitters,
Champagne, lavender
Perfect for: Classic cocktails, live music and comfort food.
Venue style: American bar and diner


Oriole, Farringdon

Explore the Old World, the New World or the Orient one cocktail at a time. A self-proclaimed

“underground cabinet of curiosities,” the atmosphere is warm and decadent and every

cocktail is delivered with an exotic flourish. There’s also live music every night of the week!

“An amazing experience. The best cocktails I have ever tasted. The mixologists are truly
fantastic and each drink has a story!”Tiskyboo via TripAdvisor

Our favourite cocktail:
The ‘Makassar Strait’ — Hennessy Fine de Cognac, Agricole Rhum,
Iranian Lime Infusion, Lavender Eau de Vie - Satkara Lemon, Veuve Cliquot Champagne
Perfect for: Trying something new
Venue style: Cocktail bar and live music


Lost and Found, Balham

Friday Night ??

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A lively, snug bar with a vintage vibe and buzzing atmosphere. Lost and Found is a real ‘out-
out’ bar — you could easily spend your whole night here. The service is quick without
sacrificing quality and the staff are super friendly. There’s even 2 for 1 cocktails every night
from 5 - 9.

“The bar had a great atmosphere, the cocktails were incredible (as were the cocktail pouring
skills!) and all of the girls commented on what an excellent venue and evening it had been.
We want to go back despite not living anywhere near London!”1977Nicky via Tripadvisor

Our favourite cocktail: The ‘Perfect 10’ — Tanqueray Gin, fresh lime, grapefruit, homemade
coriander syrup and egg white. Served with a large grapefruit twist & freshly ground black
pepper
Perfect for: A night out
Venue style: Cocktail bar with karaoke room for hire


Little Bat, Islington

Reinventing the neighbourhood hangout, Little Bat is a dark and intimate venue ideal for
date night. Established by the guys behind the multiple award-winning Callooh Callay, Little
Bat boasts a cosy vibe and exceptional drinks menu packed with craft cocktails that range
from classic to quirky.

“Comfortable design, good atmosphere and playlist. Cocktails are expertly made and
presented; liked the original ingredients. The staff team stand out; Robyn looking after
everyone & really welcoming. I’m going back for the truffle popcorn :)”XxBea via
TripAdvisor

Our favourite cocktail: ‘Carbon Tax Cocktail — Glenmorangie Whisky, Teeling’s Irish
Whiskey, Bulleit Rye, maple & tonka syrup, barrel aged bitters, salt, charcoal
Perfect for:
Date night
Venue style: Bar with compact food menu


Mr Fogg's Residence, Mayfair

Located in the heart of Mayfair, the eclectic style of Mr Fogg's Residence reflects the era
when explorer Phileas Fogg set off on his adventures. We can’t recommend the ‘Tipsy Tea’
enough — an indulgent afternoon tea featuring a splendid selection of exquisite champagne
and gin tea tipples.

“The cocktails are absolutely delicious! We tried the train which is a cocktail for 4 and the
globe which is a cocktail for 8. Presentation is amazing, worth taking pictures of.” — via
TripAdvisor

Perfect for:
Treating yourself
Venue style: Bar with compact food menu

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