T’is the season to… catch up with amazing friends. Remember the best part of 2017, start making better-than-ever plans for 2018, then seal it by clicking glasses together. Such friendships call for more than a pint in a pub: plan an adventure! How about a cocktail safari, going from one fantastic place to another? To make it extra special, theme it around The Naked Grouse: 3 iconic bars, 3 incredible cocktails. Are you in?
An unconventional scotch
Meet The Naked Grouse. No label, just the elegant bird etched into the bottle, the amber of the liquid shining through, promises of the delight to come. The concept is simple: why hide pure craftsmanship?
This, my friends, is a blended malt with a difference. The first fill sherry casks it is aged in (instead of the traditional Bourbon casks, losing flavour time after time) gives it richness, fruitiness. Think buttery toffee on the nose, fudge and cooking apples on the palate…
Smooth and ultra-sherried, it is superb served on the rocks. Add it to a cocktail and it will blend the flavours wonderfully. Extra magic!
First stop: the Queen of Hoxton winter rooftop
3 levels. In the basement, cutting edge gigs and raves, immersive cabaret events and comedy shows. On the ground floor, ukulele workshops, parties, table-football, vintage pinball, unique Brighton pier 1960s games and a ping pong table. Now go up the street art decorated stairs and you will get to the rooftop. Each season brings a new theme, this winter’s being inspired by a Moroccan Medina. You can sit outside by the braziers, looking at the stars or London’s twinkling lights… or snuggle up in the wigwam, lavishly decorated with carpets, cushions and colourful lanterns.
The cocktail menu features gems like the Kasbah Coffee Martini (Tia Maria, cardamom and hot coffee) or the Berber’s Bellini (pomegranate seeds, Courvoisier, apricot brandy, elderflower and Prosecco). What you want though, is The Majorelle Man: homemade date & pistachio puree, Grand Marnier, soda and Naked Grouse, served chilled to make each flavour sharper. The way the caramel in the scotch plays with the orange and nuttiness – gorgeous. Tip: order deep fried halloumi to go with it. It comes garnished with pomegranate seeds, mint, fresh chilli and harissa yoghurt…
The Queen of Hoxton | 1 Curtain Rd, London EC2A 3JX
Second stop: The Looking Glass
One of Shoreditch’s leading cocktail bars! Expect a mix between an industrial and vintage decor and of course, an extra speakeasy hidden behind a giant mirror. On Fridays and Saturday evenings, they have DJs playing soulful, deep and afro house. No surprise then, that the winter cocktail collection is inspired by music, each representing a different era: Stayin’s alive for 1985 (El Gobernador Pisco, homemade floral liqueur, Cynar, prosecco), All eyez on me for 1990 (beetroot syrup, Blood Orange Liqueur, apricot brandy, ginger beer).
So go on, dive back in the 80s and try the Love & Hate, dedicated to Prince: Fino sherry wine, Naked Grouse, blackberry and honey cordial and a touch of Campari. The story? Sherry for the artist’s love for wine, whisky as he had professed his profound hatred for the spirit, honey as it appears in the lyrics of Purple Rain, blackberry for his favourite colour of course. And the taste? Bittersweet – for his arrogance of course!
The Looking Glass | 49 Hackney Rd, London E2 7NX
Third stop: High Water
Often described as a bartenders’ bar – yes, that level of sophistication. You can, basically, open the menu, close your eyes, choose at random and think this cocktail must have been designed for you… You will love the exposed brick walls, the intimate back room, the dim lighting. It’s the perfect place to chat until the end of the night! Go straight for the No Gran, no pain: Pimento Dram, Maraschino, orange bitters, Naked Grouse, grapefruit zest and topped, I quote, with soda and love… It’s zesty, refreshing, deliciously spicy and wonderfully addictive!
High Water | 23 Stoke Newington Road, London N16 8BJ
Last stop: home
Got a bottle of Naked Grouse at home? Fancy yourself a mixologist? Have a look on their website for cocktail ideas: Naked Sours, Sherry Cherry Slings and Rob Roys await!