Today, we’re talking to booze hero William Borrell, the man behind the Ladies & Gentlemen bars in London, Vestal Polish vodka and now a CBD-infused rum, Dead Man’s Fingers, the base of this week’s cocktail.
You may have read a few things recently (here, here and here, for example) about the rise of CBD-infused spirits. CBD is an active ingredient in cannabis, not the one that gets you all confused and hungry (that’s THC, apparently), but may have some generally groovy effects. Or it might not. By law producers aren’t allowed to make any claims for general grooviness. We tried CBD rum Dead Man’s Fingers at Imbibe this year (very nice it was too though we can’t report any unusual effects), now we’re delighted to speak to the man behind it, William Borrell.
“The idea was first conceived at the Ladies and Gentlemen bar distillery and working kitchen in Camden. This is where we try new ideas during the day before the hoards of punters descend,” he told us. The process involved, according to Borrell “a lot of trial and error”. Things moved very quickly: “we had begun experimenting with the flavours you get from a basic hemp in May and then quickly moved to a range of specialist CBD hemp strains,” he said. We tried the finished version in July. It wasn’t all plain sailing though: Borrell was worried that “we would never be able to replicate the exciting flavours we stumbled on to at the beginning of the journey when it was just our team in the Ladies & Gentlemen bar but I think we got there in the end.”
Borrell has been working in the booze business for nearly ten years now. His first venture was with a series of “terroir-focused” potato Polish vodkas, Vestal. A bar followed, Ladies & Gentlemen in Kentish Town, and then earlier this year he opened a new venue down the road in Camden Town. Both are housed in converted Victorian toilets, hence the name. Don’t worry, Borrell and the team gave them a good clean first. This summer, a new non-lavatorial venture set sail, a Ladies & Gentlemen rum boat for cruisin’ n’ boozin’ on the Regent’s Canal.
Back to this week’s cocktail: the Hemp Highball, according to Borrell was inspired by “Joerg Meyer who at his highly acclaimed bars in Germany is reclaiming the Highball as the go-to drink at the moment.” And finally, the big question is which sort of music should you listen to while sipping your CBD drink. Borrell recommends: Bill Withers Live at Carnegie Hall (on vinyl, natch). He went on to tell us that at his bar, “we have a BYOV night every Sunday where customers receive a taste of Dead Man’s Fingers for free if they bring their own vinyl, why not pop down.” Why not, indeed. Or you can make a Hemp Highball at home. Here’s how:
Add first four ingredients to an ice-filled Highball glass. Give them a good stir, top up with Sekforde Rum Mixer, stir again gently and garnish with a lemon wedge, a mint sprig and a basil leaf. Now take it away Bill Withers!