Tuesday, 23 May 2017

A Cocktail Masterclass at The Alchemist

The Alchemist opened last September on Colmore Row and has had queues outside ever since. It's fashionably decked out in copper with fun light fittings, and the cocktails are the silly kind that look impressive on instagram. They have recently launched a new cocktail menu and I'll be writing in more about the cocktails available soon.

In this post I'll be focusing on the cocktail masterclass they offer. £35 pp gets you four cocktails (two which you make yourself) and some food. It was held in the basement bar, which is quiet and private, away from the crowds upstairs. We were greeted with a Peaches and Cream cocktail- peach liqueur, pink grapefuit and lemon juice with a shot of prosecco to pour in. This was perfect for the warm day- sweet but not cloyingly so, as the grapefruit and lemon added sharpness.

Our host Omari demonstrated how to free pour and got us to practise with water. Free pouring is a surprisingly difficult skill: you have to count in your head, it's not just a case of pouring as much as you want. I think free pouring makes a bar seem very generous, we all get excited when we see bartenders pouring a seemingly random amount of gin into a glass. Actually, bartenders have to do a test at the start of each shift and if they get it wrong they can't work that day.

First we learnt how to make a Strawberry Cup, a long, refreshing drink made with vodka, strawberry puree, lemon juice, ginger ale and mint. Again, perfect for the summer.

Next: Bounty. This sounds like it would be rich and creamy but it was actually pleasantly light and coconut focused with just a hint of chocolate. Made with Koko Kanu coconut rum, white chocolate liqueur and lime juice to cut through the sweetness, it's another refreshing summer drink.

Three drinks in, it was definitely time for some food. As I was with Emily, we were served the vegetarian version of their sharer platter. I wasn't expecting to be impressed, but I really enjoyed this little selection. Edamame beans, little cheesy wraps, falafel, nachos and dips were lovely to pick at while we drank our cocktails and had a chat.

The masterclass section was over and the food was consumed; there was time for one final cocktail. We were given the sort of drink that people visit The Alchemist for- colours changing, smoking, fun glassware and not necessarily great tasting.

This is the Colour Changing One (actually what it's called, which is a cute name) and is made with apple and vodka. I enjoyed taking pictures of it but it wasn't a great quality drink.

Other than the final drink, this masterclass made me feel much more positive about The Alchemist. It was a well-organised afternoon and I liked the light, summery drinks and snacks we tried. Check back soon for a look at their new cocktail menu.

The Alchemist

Photos by Helen.

I went along as a plus one with Good Girl Gone Brum and so the afternoon was free of charge. However, I was not required to write a blog post. 

Sunday, 21 May 2017

New York Day Nine

Mexican Brunch at La Contenta

In which I ended up eating nachos and drinking cocktails at breakfast.

Mimrosa ($7) was a combination of prickly pear puree and hibiscus flower reduction, topped with sparkling wine.

Then onto a Mijito ($7) essentially a mojito but with tequila not rum.

Crunchy nachos were served with a mild green sauce and were perfect to soak up the booze.

Edd chose the ubiquitous Torta Cubana ($13) a pork belly, ham, cheese, avocado and pickle sandwich, served with patatas bravas.  

Meanwhile, I made a bit of an odd choice by having Chilaquiles ($13) essentially lots of nachos baked with cheese, chipotle salsa and onions and topped with fried eggs. This was good fun stodgy food but I'm looking at the menu and wondering why I didn't go for garlic prawns or fish tacos.

American Museum of Natural History 

It's certainly a beautiful building and a famous landmark. I'll be honest: I found the whole place a little old fashioned. The stuffed animals in display cases looked tired to me and like every school trip I've seen in US films.

I did enjoy the dinosaurs and fossils and I was interested in the Native American display as this isn't something you'd find at home. However, it was busy and the 'pay what you feel' thing is awkward. Hurrah for free entry to museums at home.

It was day nine and I was starting to feel a little sluggish. Burgers and beers at Benson's helped with that!

La Contenta
American Museum of Natural History

Photos by Helen and Edd.
Everything paid for ourselves. 

Friday, 19 May 2017

New sandwich menu at Buffalo and Rye

I recently visited Buffalo and Rye, the tiny American-style joint on Bennett's Hill, to try their new lunch time menu. For approximately £7.50 you get a gorgeous big American sandwich, a side of fries and a wine, beer or soft drink. Prices go up or down a little depending on what you've ordered.

While I was waiting for my food I tried a cocktail from their selection of whisky drinks. I tried Jim's Cherry Cola (£6.50) made with Jim Beam bourbon, cherry brandy, lemon juice and cola syrup. A fun but strong short drink.

Time to try the sandwiches from the new lunch menu. These aren't any old sandwiches- they're full of oozy, melty fillings on top quality toasted bread.

Highlights include: St Louis Gerber (£7.75) ham, gherkins and melted smoked cheese.

Buffalo Rueben (£7.50) pastrami, emmental, sauerkraut and gherkins.

The Hot Brown (£7.75) aka everyone's favourite. Pulled smoked turkey, bacon, bechamal sauce, BBQ sauce, baked on sourdough bread. A salty, tangy mess of deliciousness.

Chicken Po'Boy (£6.95) A classic Louisiana sandwich of buttermilk chicken, smoked mayo and salad in a 'sub'. The chicken was delightful but I found the bread a little dry and needed more mayo-unusual for me.

Crayfish and Smashed Avocado (£7.25) One of my favourite lunchtime flavour combinations, well seasoned and served on Peel and Stone bread because it's the Birmingham law to sell at least one piece of Peel and Stone bread. For good reason.

French Dip (£7.95) This is now a well known sandwich in the UK but a couple of years ago it wasn't common outside of the US. Salt cured beef, cheese and caramalised onions on a firm sub roll, with a sexy gravy dip.

There's also a vegetarian Pimento Cheese roll, with peppers and tomato jam and a Caesar Salad. All sandwich prices include fries and an alcoholic or soft drink. I know where I'll be in the school holidays!

Buffalo and Rye

Photos by Helen

Food and drink were complimentary for review purposes.