The Nightjar, London…Molecular cocktails in a speak-easy setting

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Ranked the 3rd best bar in the world according to Travel and Leisure Magazine. It employs a strick no-standing policy.

https://www.travelandleisure.com/slideshows/best-bars-in-the-world-drinks#9

This is how going to a bar should be, civilized. I don’t like going to a bar and standing in line with all the other peasants. I want to make my reservations 6 months in advance, I want VIP service, immediate admission, I want to know the time parameters, I want to know the band that is playing, I want to know my seat is in the front row and guaranteed. Can you say entitled?

Look at that beautiful menu.

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Here is the table of contents. Pre-prohibition, Prohibition, Post-war, and then their Signature drinks.

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I first found out about this place when I was researching the best bars to catch a drink at in London, and this video from their sister bar Oriole Bar was what sold me.

Here is the latest collection of drinks, some of which you will see in the post momentarily.

So to start, the Prohibition era Elixir cocktail. Given that the only booze legal during prohibition were either for church or medicinal reasons, the whole medicinal influence was clear in this recipe. Bank’s rum 5 Y.O., Marcanegra Mezcal Espadin, Vacuum clarified root milk, Atsina cress, Fresh squeezed grapefruit & lime.

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So this drink is like voodoo medicine meant to treat inflammation and menstrual irregularities. They also put some turmeric, which comes from the Zeodaria root. The Zeodaria smells like mango but tastes like ginger.

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Sorry to get all National Geographic on that ass, but I just never knew that turmeric came from the roots of such a pretty plant. This is the ideal plant to have in your house, as you can use it ornamentally and then use the roots for dinner once it dies.

All of this medicinal talk leads me to uncontrollably post a really bad video. Sorry, I can’t help posting hair band videos in my blogs lately….

More apologies, but I am going to have to keep ‘geeking out’ on this cocktail. What the fuck is vacuum clarified milk root you may ask? Well, apparently, it is an excellent way to clarify a cocktail. You add milk to a cocktail, boil it to curdle it and then remove the proteins in there in order to prevent spoilage, and you get this clear milk root that binds to the volatile polyphenols and removes any astringent tastes and clarifies the cocktail. This totally would fit in as a cocktail at Dinner by Heston, where he used all these arcane recipes. Apparently, Charles Dickens and Benjamin Franklin had milk wines in their cellars, who knew? If this Psychiatry thing doesn’t work out, I’m going into food science or shamanism. Here is the fascinating article on this topic.

https://www.cooksillustrated.com/science/844-articles/story/the-key-to-crystal-clear-cocktails-milk-really

The main reason we got this drink though was to see how they blended the mezcal into this concoction. It’s no surprise to us as we have heard so many claims to the medicinal properties of mezcal. Supposedly drinking the unfiltered milk of the maguey sap can help cure gonorrhea. See article below.

https://survivingmexico.com/tag/medicinal-use-of-maguey/

They were not fucking around in calling this drink Elixir. They really did their homework here. They even put the root of the astragalus plant, which is yet another beautiful ornamental plant with medicinal properties. Apparently, they are studying its uses in combating HIV infection. WTF? Mezcal for Gonorrhea and astragalus root for HIV, this cocktail is literally the ultimate precursory for a one night stand.

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Finally, burdock root. I am not kidding about this being the precursor to a one-night stand.

Another traditional use of burdock root is as an aphrodisiac. A 2012 study on male rats found that the extract of burdock root had an aphrodisiac effect. The extract enhanced sexual function and increased the amount of sexual behavior in the male rats. More research is needed on humans, but anecdotal evidence supports this claim.

Here it is, liquid viagra. The Elixir.

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The next drink was nothing more than an absolutely stunning eye candy of a cocktail. The Name of the Samurai. Nikka whisky from the barrel. I know, why would you fuck up a barrel aged Japanese whisky in a cocktail? The answer is why not? When you are doing something as esoteric as this, why use cheap or generic shit, go all out.

This was like an Alinea level olfactory experience. You are instructed to inhale the smoke of the burnt bamboo shoots burning inside the wooden sake dispenser that they put the cocktail on, at the same time you are drinking it. Check out these ingredients, popcorn tea infusion, fresh lime, akashi tai sake, ume plum, and galangal liquor, with mirin and rice syrup. Fuck, it does not get more esoteric than this. A brilliant combination of smoke from the burnt bamboo with the smokey peat from the Nikka whisky.

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What a tour de force shit-show. I love this level of ingredient geekery, why can’t I find a bar like this in the US? Why don’t more Michelin restaurants focus on their cocktails and come close to half the level of the amount of thought this bar puts into its drinks?

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Here is another ghoulish drink from the Prohibition Age. It’s called the Corpse Reviver No 1. Just the image of this drink and the name takes me directly to a Depeche Mode song. We are the dead of night…….we’re in the zombie room….we’re twilight’s parasites…

Look at that dirt at the bottom of the glass, like the cocktail glass literally rose out of the grave, and the phallic earthworm is twisting up almost into the glass to get a taste.

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Oooouuuu, so raunchy, like this song. I just imagine an emo stripper crawling towards this drink wearing an Edward Scissor hands leather skin-tight bodysuit with zippers all over it.

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Intermezzo time. Very nice old-timey Django Reinhard style band.

I had originally booked the tribute band for Chet Baker, but this would easily have been my second choice.

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For the life of me, I was not immediately able to figure out if this was the Huacatay or the Lei Lani Volcano, as Erika had ordered it, hence I could not remember what it tasted like in order to match it to the menu description. Upon hours of google images searches, I finally discovered that there are various iterations of the Lei Lani Volcano cocktail, and this was it because of the rolled/grilled rice powder and the roasted feijoa fruit slice.

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So obviously this was from the era of post-prohibition with the advent of the tiki craze in the 1950’s. The rum liqueur base of this tiki drink was Golden Falernum. Just read this description, it’s quite fantastical.

http://the-bitter-truth.com/liqueurs/golden-falernum/

Underneath the feijoa fruit and grilled rice powder are banana bread beer and peanut butter ice. Talk about a liquid PB&J sandwich.

And here is the Feijoa fruit. Never heard of this fruit before, native to Hawaii. How the hell do they get all these ingredients in-season? I’m assuming they grill it for umami purposes, but then they freeze it like people do with frozen grapes. Maybe this also preserves it for a longer period of time so they can guarantee that they don’t run out during periods of lack of availability. Freezing it probably also serves a second purpose of acting like an ice cube for the drink. Brilliant!

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While Erika was enjoying her foo-foo drink I wanted to stay in the pre-prohibition gangsta shit era with a Saratoga. This is made with Woodford Rye Whisky with Hennesy VS Cognac. It had a black cherry dipped in powdered sugar with a grilled orange peel in there. I saw the rye and cognac combo and thought to myself how aromatic and spicy this must be, and I was right. It was very Christmasy with baked cherry, cloves, cinnamon, and hot fruit punch notes.

The Woodford Reserve company is known for their Bourbon, but in 2015 they started making a rye, which you see here. It has a sweeter taste and is almost like a bourbon cask rye if you want a whisky analogy. When I read the tasting notes on this I saw why they had a sugar covered cherry attached to the glass, almost as a visual prompt for what you get on the palate.  I totally nailed it when I read the tasting notes:

Nose: Baking spices greet the nose, in classic rye fashion. Deeper in, there is a strong cherry liqueur aroma, plus marzipan, dry corn, and a malty-but-not-too-sweet grain presence. Beneath this is a vegetal layer of mild sweet grass and – weird – dill.

Palate: Medium bodied. Distinct tongue burn (I would have said this was 50% ABV), which starts out dry and slightly bitter, and then turns malty and sweet and mildly bitter (fruity bitters, though, like Angostura or Peychaud’s).

Finish: Medium-short in length. Spicy, with cinnamon red-hots and clove, fading into ginger (candied; dried). Not overly bitter on the finish.

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I can’t help it, every time I see that “Yak” it takes me back to my college gangsta rap days, with one of the original west coast gangsta rap groups Above the Law. RIP KMG. XO with me..ah ah, ah ah..

Why do rappers like Hennesy so much?

So this also combined a liquid from the Armagnac region called Floc de Gascogne, which was used as an aperitif most often, but also as a dessert drink. It should be consumed while cool and is superb on ice. Almond, jasmine, roses, honey, black fruit, and condiments are characteristic notes.

Interestingly it also has some beer in it. Lowlander American-style IPA from Amsterdam. Here are the tasting notes I found online at beeradvocate.com:

This beer pours a little hazy, amber, yellow with a three finger, white head that leaves a lot of lacing on the glass.

Nose: Resin, coriander, grass, caramel malt, citrus, floral hops, and orange.
Taste: I couldn’t get the tea in the nose but it’s definitely in here! Also a bitterness from the tea. Some orange, grass, citrus, and coriander. But the white tea is the big thing here!
Mouth: Medium body and carbonation. Some sweetness in the middle and dry & bitter ending. Smooth.

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More music, before next round of drinks time to drain the lizard. Here’s what I saw on the way to the loo….

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With the Django music playing and this photo on the wall, I felt like I was going to walk out of the bathroom on my way back to the table and see Erika dressed like this.

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Since I really wanted to get shitfaced I needed about 2 more drinks before calling it a night so I had the Flying Grasshopper for a return to the Tiki era, and finally the Banoffeescotch, which is one of their non-era specific signature drinks. I wanted this from the beginning as I saw that it was made with Bruichladdich whisky, which is one of my favorites, but it is more appropriate as a dessert drink as you will see shortly.

First, the Flying Grasshopper. Again, my drink looks totally different from what image searches I saw online where there was the actual torso of a dried grasshopper that you were supposed to eat off a pin. Maybe this freaked too many people out so they stopped doing that?

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Here is a fascinating article on insect uses in cocktails.

https://www.supercall.com/culture/bug-worm-cocktails-ant-drinks

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This tasted like an iced horchata with Baileys. The menu describes a chapulines “crickets” in Spanish, crisp, so I am assuming that the grasshopper was integrated into the biscuit somehow as a protein powder, etc. There was also an interesting middle eastern twist to it with the Tahini carob wine with Iranian date milk. Tahini is basically the component of hummus that gives it that nutty taste. It is crushed sesame seed oil that is basically what halva consists of. It has the intense nutty/chalk consistency that really came across in the drink. The Iranian date milk flavor combined with the carob wine gave it a really intense brown sugar/port like sweetness as well.

For the finale…I started laughing so hard when I saw this drink. I am happy that I did not do too much research ahead of time to see images of the drinks at this bar, as that would have totally ruined the child-like joy I got when I saw this. Is this not the cutest thing you have ever seen?!

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I was feeling like Tom Hanks in the movie Big. On second thought, after taking my first sip and looking at that bear in the jacuzzi I was starting to feel like Eddie Murphy in Cumming to America.

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What in the hell is banoffee you may ask?

https://hopeeternalcookbook.wordpress.com/2010/12/12/banoffee-curd/

It is like a curd made with bananas and brown sugar. Discovering that such a combination like this of a food product even existed was like seeing Sasquatch riding in on a unicorn.

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Here are all the menus for all the drinks described above.

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I couldn’t leave without having one of their special barrel-aged rare spirits. I was so fucked up at this point I really don’t remember what it was that I had exactly, but I thought I would include the list of special drinks they had as it was mind-blowing. I may have asked for the Lenell Red Hook Rye Barrel Proof, but there was not enough left in the bottle for them to legally pour me a serving, so I think I may have got the 1910 cognac. Anyhow, I was lucky I did not actually yack after all these drinks.

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They even give you a nice stack of playing cards when you leave as a memento with the ingredients to all their drinks.

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This was the last image I remembered from this night…

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Read this article if you are planning a trip and want to know the difference between these two modes of transportation.

https://londonist.com/2015/12/why-you-should-take-a-black-cab-not-an-uber-this-christmas

 

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