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Master of Malt Blog

Tag: Bloody Mary

The hell of airport drinking

Ever had a crappy cocktail at an airport, a piss-poor pint at a festival or a glass of watery wine at the theatre? Then this one’s for you. Nate Brown…

Ever had a crappy cocktail at an airport, a piss-poor pint at a festival or a glass of watery wine at the theatre? Then this one’s for you. Nate Brown asks why drinks have to be so hellish when bars have a captive audience.

Here’s a classical depiction of Hell. Numerous descending circles, each floor a deepening depiction of depravity and retribution, hot pokers and all that jazz. However, at the bottom is no lake of fire, no burning pits. Instead, the devil is a three-headed monster encased in ice, frozen and incapacitated. 

I have a different interpretation of Hell. It is about an hour south from St Pancras station. It is a place where frivolous hope comes to die. At least in a hellish fire pit, you could cook sausages. At least among the ice, you could make a decent Dry Martini. In Gatwick airport, however, such simple pleasures are forever out of reach. 

Plymouth Martini

Imagine getting a Dry Martini like this at the airport, you’d want your flight to be delayed

On my latest adventure, I found myself thirsty, peckish and soon to be depressed in the departures hall. Bacchus and the other gods of food and drink have certainly never blessed this land. This is a place of hunger and want of every kind. Foolishly, I thought that a visit to one of the last remaining Jamie’s Italians would at least be mediocre. But my safe bet was a mule. Immediately, I became aware that the hostess’s lack of lust for life is contagious. Boy, if terrorists could bottle that, they could be done with us all by lunch. 

There’s an irony in this one remaining smouldering ember of an empire being the worst of the bunch, like a cockroach that just won’t die. I was sent to the bar to order. I watch the bartender (and I use that term loosely) make a deplorable Bloody Mary: a single of Smirnoff, visibly fizzy tomato juice, bubbling like a witch’s cauldron, a single dash each of Worcestershire sauce and Tabasco, two ice cubes and a withered, malnourished lemon slice. I prayed for her to add more Tabasco to save whatever wretched soul was about to be served this crap. Mind you, all the hot sauce in the world would not be enough. The whole thing was put together at a snail’s pace, with absolute zero fucks given to the drink, or the guests impatiently waiting at the bar. She stops halfway through to complain about Barney the manger to her colleague, how he’s always hiding in the office. He’s hiding from you, Medusa.

The presence of a captive audience should stimulate the bars and restaurants that feed and water the endless arrival of inquisitive travellers. The hardest part of operating a venue is getting willing punters through the doors. Not focusing on that means more energy spent on perfecting the product. If only! Instead, the absence of a need to draw in punters transforms these venues into cesspits of hospitality excrement. What does it matter to them if the beer smells like cheese, or the mixed drinks are watered down with decomposing ice, or if the fruit garnish was cut last week? There’ll still be another wave of suckers to inflict this torture upon. 

Nate Brown showing us how to make a proper drink

The lounges are no better, stocked with horrendous spirits. Nor is there any relief to be found after boarding. Why is the journey a penance and not part of the pleasure? I think about becoming teetotal when I travel. Or hijacking the plane. And airports are not the only criminals. All arenas of captivity are the same. Theatres offer (bizarrely) acidic Merlot, bought by the bar for £5 a bottle and flogged for £30 to mugs like me. No, I do not want a Bell’s while watching Pinter. I’m close enough to the edge as it is. I’d kill for a Redbreast. Literally. On trains, it’s a choice between tins of London Pride or Carling? Give me strength. Why is there not a Beavertown? Or some partnership with one of the thousand independent breweries this country supposedly has to offer? Instead, I’m left with a choice between having my throat burned or my stomach assaulted. It’s part of the reason why I don’t go to festivals, either. I do not want to have to pay £9 for a horrific Heineken in a plastic pint. I don’t want to pay an extortionate amount for the worst Bacardi and faux-fruit slushy imaginable. Why is it so hard to offer a decent Highball? Is this why people take drugs?

There’s a certain destitute acceptance of being in a captive audience, one that will consume any old crap at any old price, and one that I refuse to partake in. When the demon Mephistopheles in Marlow’s Doctor Faustus is asked why aren’t you in Hell, he responds, “Why this is Hell, nor am I out of it.” I know what he means. 

Nate Brown has owned and operated spirit specialist cocktail bars in London for the better part of a decade. He’s a regular speaker on industry panels, a judge for various spirit awards and has been known to harbour an opinion or two.  

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500,000 Scovilles Naga Chilli Vodka – The World’s New Hottest Vodka

How did it come to this? When 250,000 Scovilles Naga Chilli Vodka was released we thought we could finally put this madness behind us. It was the hottest vodka in…

Naga Chilli Vodka

How did it come to this? When 250,000 Scovilles Naga Chilli Vodka was released we thought we could finally put this madness behind us. It was the hottest vodka in the world and it tasted like lava and the face-melting scene from the end of Indiana Jones.

But here we are again. Those awful, awful people at The ‘Hot Enough’ Vodka Co. have conjured up another monster. A monster twice as terrifying and evil as before, from the fiery pits of Hades – those lamentable fiends!

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Master of Cocktails – Bloody Mary

This week we’re making a classic drink on #MasterofCocktails – a Bloody Mary. We’ll get through this, and then I’ll explain what you should have made instead. Clear? Good. Now…

Master of Cocktails Bloody Mary

This week we’re making a classic drink on #MasterofCocktails – a Bloody Mary. We’ll get through this, and then I’ll explain what you should have made instead. Clear? Good.

Now for me, when it comes to Bloody Marys, it’s all about seasoning. Hence the (frankly ridiculous) list of ingredients.

What we’re after is something to compliment the umami-rich flavour of tomato juice and work with the spice of the Worcestershire sauce. These are really the two key ingredients in this drink, and we’re aiming to add to them.

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250,000 Scovilles Naga Chilli Vodka

*sigh* Well, it had to happen didn’t it? There were absolutely bound to be some people so warped, so twisted, that the 100,000 Scovilles Naga Chilli Vodka we launched at…

*sigh*

Well, it had to happen didn’t it?

There were absolutely bound to be some people so warped, so twisted, that the 100,000 Scovilles Naga Chilli Vodka we launched at the beginning of the year wasn’t hot enough for them. Words fail me.

Capsaicin (the active compound that provides chillies’ heat) is said to be addictive (it causes the release of dopamine amongst other brain-chemistry-related treats), and this doubtless goes some way towards explaining the mindset of this small but vocal minority of nut-jobs.

It’s probably worth pointing out a few of the people for whom it emphatically was hot enough; Philip Schofield for one:

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Our First Whisky Tasting

We ran our first official in-house whisky tasting last Thursday and all-in-all it was a rip-roaring success! The tasting, led by Darren Rook – our tastings manager – was all…

Our First Whisky Tasting

We ran our first official in-house whisky tasting last Thursday and all-in-all it was a rip-roaring success!

The tasting, led by Darren Rook – our tastings manager – was all about the Scotch regions, and the extraordinary variation there is in whisky from different parts of Scotland. Beginning with the lightest/gentlest whisky first, we journeyed (figuratively) to the Lowlands, with a single cask 19 year old Rosebank no less!

This was followed by the lower strength version of our single cask Tomatin 19 year old (Stephen Fry’s favourite whisky!), which offered up a fantastic array of barley, zest and malty sweetness.

Next was a charming Speysider: a 1987 BenRiach, bottled by Gordon and MacPhail. The refill American hoggie maturation resulted in a spicy, biscuity dram with oodles of creamy vanilla on the palate.

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