Wednesday, 21 February 2018

Drink: The Vanguard

Style: Cocktail bar     Price: ££ (Around £8.50 a cocktail)  Location: Jewellery Quarter   

The Venue

1000 Trades is a lovely craft ale bar in the Jewellery Quarter. While selling a great range of beers, ciders and wines, they've also had a number of restaurants and street food vendors come in to do pop-ups. When I first heard of The Vanguard, I thought it was a similar concept; a cocktail bar pop-up.

However, it's actually a different business, using 1000 Trade's top floor. Separate but complimentary: 1000 Trades don't sell cocktails and The Vanguard doesn't sell beer or wine.

Head into 1000 Trades and follow the signs to the top floor. Keep your eyes open for the bee sign. At the top of the building you'll find The Vanguard: a sweet, cosy bar nestled into what is essentially a corridor. They've done a splendid job of making it comfortable and intimate, with old-fashioned aperitif adverts on the walls and plenty of seating. It was beautifully lit in the afternoon when I was there, I imagine it would be rather romantic in the evening.


Have you heard of The Vanguard as a Game of Thrones themed bar? Well, it isn't. It does, however, have a good selection of mead, one of the oldest alcoholic beverages known.

When I visited The Vanguard with a group of bloggers, we met Sam the owner, who gave us a talk through some different types of mead. Mead is created by fermenting honey, but there's not many guidelines for making it at the moment. Sam has been visiting and working with producers to ensure the mead he sells is of the highest quality.

Garden Mead from Lyme Bay Winery. If you've tried mead before, I reckon it was this brand. I learnt something new while sipping this. The taste of the honey in the mead depends on what flowers the bees have access to around their hives. Garden Mead is made using honey from bees with lots of different plants and flowers. You get a fresh, herby, minty taste, very easy to drink and not too sweet. 

Yore Sparkling Mead. Also from Lyme Bay, but with a modern outlook. This has a lower percentage, is sparkling and can be enjoyed as a long drink. It's got the deep, rich sweetness of burnt caramel but it's refreshing because of the bubbles. I really loved this. It's a brilliant alternative to beer or cider. 

Gosnells Citra Sea Mead. Similarly to Yore, Gosnells are working to modernise mead by making it a sparkling, lower percentage long drink. Sam gave us their Citra Sea Mead so we could try a flavoured mead. The honey is fermented alongside lemon peel and tarragon and finished off with sea water, giving it an unusual, tangy flavour. They are aiming this at craft beer drinkers and it's definitely interesting. 


As well as Mead, Sam is keen to showcase other drinks such as brandy and an usual digestif named Fernet-Branca. This won't be for everyone- it's quite herbally and tastes a bit like cough medicine to be honest- but you can give it a go in a cocktail.

For my cocktail, I chose the 3.14 Cherry Pi (£9). A twist on a Martinez (gin, vermouth, cherry bitters) this one has the flavours of spiced winter fruits too. I like that the menu is written based on the flavour profile of the drink rather than just the spirits used, encouraging us to step out of our comfort zones and try something new.

If you choose the same cocktail as me, you'll get a slight syrupy mouthfeel, with chocolate and spice notes. Look at those maraschino cherries too- DO NOT LEAVE THESE. They are beautiful, magical, delicious and expensive. Eat them up.

Head along to The Vanguard for a cosy, welcoming atmosphere, some unusual new favourites to discover and an educational chat with Sam. I love a dose of facts with my alcoholic beverage and I'm looking forward to heading back soon.

The Vanguard At the top of 1000 Trades, Frederick Street

Drinks were complimentary for review purposes.

Photos by Helen. 

Tuesday, 13 February 2018

Drink: Fentiman's Rose Spritz

Fentiman's Rose Lemonade is one of my favourite soft drinks; I always want it if I see it. It's such a delightfully grown up drink, a little sweet but with a hint of rose. The rose oil comes from Bulgarian roses and makes for a pretty beverage.

Somehow I've never considered trying it as a mixer in a cocktail. Luckily, Fentiman's have done the hard work for me. They got in touch to let me know about their new Rose Spritz serve. Officially for Valentine's Day, I know I'll be sipping this all through the spring and summer.

Simply pour 125ml of Fentiman's Rose Lemonade into a large chilled glass (I popped mine in the freezer first) with 125ml of prosecco. Make sure you've got plenty of ice in there to keep your drink cool and refreshing.

I garnished with the recommended blueberries and rosemary but imagine how splendid it would be with strawberries or raspberries in the summer too! If you can get hold of rose petals for a garnish, it would look so pretty.

The joy of this drink is that it can be adapted so easily too. For those who don't drink, the lemonade is lovely on its own, with plenty of ice and the same garnish, but you could lengthen it with soda too. I'm also pondering how this would be with an additional splash of gin...?

I'm feeling really happy to have rediscovered Fentiman's Rose Lemonade as a mixer for alcohol and look forward to drinking the Rose Spritz throughout the spring and summer months.

Photos by Helen

The liquid ingredients and the glass were complimentary. 

Sunday, 11 February 2018

Drink: Tom's Kitchen Cocktail Masterclass

Style: Cocktail masterclass    Price: ££ (£35 per person) Location: Mailbox

How exciting to be invited to a cocktail masterclass in which I'd be making classic cocktails! In the year it's been open, I haven't managed to visit Tom's Kitchen until this event. I'd been a little put off by the prices of the food but I had admired the cocktail list, full of spirit-led classics.

I was delighted to be invited along to try one of their masterclasses, held in one of the private dining rooms just off the restaurant.

Noel, our host for the evening, talked us through each cocktail and we went up in pairs to try making them ourselves.

The Pom Pom

Containing a shot of lemon vodka, a shot of kumquat liqueur and pomegranate, this refreshing and fruity drink is shaken with ice, then strained into a martini glass. The sharpness of the liqueur and the vodka were a lovely contrast with the sweet juice.


I love a Poinsettia. It's a champagne-based cocktail, with cranberry and Grand Marnier, an orange brandy liqueur. The liqueur and the juice were poured into the glass, then carefully topped with champagne. The clever layering effect comes from pouring the champagne down a bar spoon.

Gin Martini

A classic cocktail masterclass with one of the most classic cocktails! It's a simple, refreshing, classy drink. Naturally, if you don't like gin, it's not going to be for you.

A gin martini is a double measure of gin, with white vermouth (I tend to add bitters too). Stirred over plenty of ice and strained into a chilled glass. We made a twist of lemon, by twirling it round a straw.

While we were there, Noel showed us one his own favourites: a kind of spicy martini.

 It was a really fun evening. It's £35pp, there's no minimum amount of people, and you can request the type of cocktails you'd like to make.

If you're not into masterclasses but you are into cocktails, I'd still advise popping by Tom's Kitchen for a drink or two. The bartenders know what they're talking about and make some splendid cocktails.

Tom's Kitchen

The masterclass experience was complimentary

Photos by Helen