Wineweek 171: February with Rum

Everyone who has been following this blog is aware of my fondness for gin. All the cocktails (at least 95%), whether made at home or ordered in a restaurant have been based on gin. Preferably a nice one, like Jensen’s Gin or Stockholms Bränneri.  But not any more, M found a way of breaking my cycle: just buy me a nice rum, and eventually I will get bored with all my old recipes and try a new one. You just have to place it at the reach of my hand (I am lazy but curious). And this is what happened – a bottle of Diplomatico dark rum appeared in my drink’s cabinet, and now I have started making Mojitos. Here are a few facts about rum and a good recipe that will keep you cocktail-happy and thinking of the Carribean in Frebruary Continue reading “Wineweek 171: February with Rum”

Cocktails and Ships at Bottles Pop-Up Bar, Stockholm

Imagine old wooden chairs and tables, figureheads and miniature ships. And imagine holding a rum cocktail with zesty lemon peel and a huge ice cube floating in the middle. There is no music, just steady murmur coming from the other tables and the clinking of ice against your glass. There is no rush, and the calm bar invites you to relax.

Bottles Pop-Up bar is all about the drinks. It is run by three Stockholm bartenders with merits from Little Quarter, Shibumi and Lilla Nygatan. The Pop-Up bar has an interesting concept, it moves around within the Gamla Stan restaurant scene, and the theme changes with every venue. Right now it is located in the Victory Hotel (the Congress Center) and houses a theme loyal to the venue style. I have previously written to you about Tweed, the semi-speakeasy cocktail bar inside the hotel (review here). Bottles current style is similar, however it feels less clubby and more genuine. Other venues will include restaurants (by the same owner) in the Gamla Stam/ Lilla Nygatan are: Pubologi, Djuret, Svinet, Lejontornet, Tweed and Burgundy.

I was at Bottles for some afterwork drinks with fellow Yelpers. We arrived early, around 6pm and had no trouble finding a seat. Ok, we even had a reservation, but we would have found a seat nonetheless. We were offered a drinks menu with around seven different cocktails that all were named after ships of past and present. Ingredients included all of the usual suspects: rum, gin, tequila and bourbon. I was perhaps a bit disappointed that the spirits used were quite main stream: Bacardi, London Dry and other big brands (very un-hipster). The mixers were the ones to set the mood with tastes of rosehip, marinated fruits and ginger ale. Every cocktail was named after a boat and had a story, which the bartenders introduced when serving the drinks. I had a Carina II with variations of old wine (tasted a bit like fortified wine), grapefruit and champagne, and a Rumbullion with Bacardi, Havanna Club, Captain Morgan, Barbancourt and Gunroom and Sour. Both cocktails were very good and fit the historic atmosphere of the hotel.

All in all, a fun concept with spiced with tasty drinks and great service. I am already excited about where the bar moves next and looking forward to exploring what kind of drinks the other venues have to offer.

Tandem, a gentleman’s cocktail bar in Barcelona

With all the fuss going on about Cava, thought that I forgot about Cocktail Thursdays did you? No I did not and this Thursday I have a real treat for you! A trip down memory lane (M proposed right after a visit to this bar) and a sure stop every time we visit Barcelona. Tandem is a small cocktail bar located on Carrer de Aribau in laid back L’Eixample.

The outside of the bar does not really give away anything. You can see it’s a bar, and that they seem to serve cocktails (the logo is two guys riding a tandem carrying a cocktail tray), but you need to open to door and go in to get the real picture. When you step in you enter a space that could be from the 60’s. Long mahogany bar with high chairs, the wall framed with mirrors and the back of the bar decorated with bottles of spirits. The lighting is dim but not dark and they play some old music (at a low volume). The bartenders are dressed up accordingly in white suits and they are very polite, and I mean old school polite with a big P. You can almost see Don Draper (Mad Men) sitting there with his whisky.

The bar
The bar
Barcelona 141
Bitters in perfume bottless
Something close to a Dark and Stormy
Something close to a Dark and Stormy

It was Mrs Gin and Mr Rum on the move again that night, keeping within our cocktail comfort zone. I ordered something fresh and sour, and M something close to a Dark and Stormy. The bartender made the call on the ingredients. We ended up with two long cocktails, mine with cucumber, citrus fruit, basil and some soda water, and M’s with lime, soda and coke. Simple ingredients, but great taste. The spirits used were smooth with no bitterness whatsoever transferring into the drink. Both cocktails set us back only 9€ each, so I would say that is a bargain. I have previously also had some Cava here, and I recall the house sparkling being of acceptable quality.

All in all a wonderful bar, never empty but never too busy to turn us around at the door. It’s something of a special place to me and I hope you enjoy it too if you have a chance to visit.

Flavors and Party Tricks at Bar Stories (Singapore)

Bar stories ranks perhaps as my number one cocktail bar in Singapore (maybe even the world). If you would ask M, he would prefer Longplay (review here), but I am sure this place would not be long behind.

Bar stories is located on Haji lane, a street where the Western and Middle-Eastern cultures collide. There are many bars around with tourists and expats having drinks, but also bars that serve no alcohol to respect the Arab-heritage. Bar stories is located in the upstairs of an old shop-house. Its not a speakeasy per-se, but it is not something you wonder into without knowing what it is.

Upon entering we were greeted and seated at the end of the bar. I love a seat with a view! The concept was as in Bitters & Love (review here), there is no menu, you explain to the bartender what you like and they will make you a drink. We went with our usual spirits of choice, me wit gin and M with a dark rum. We are perhaps a bit boring, but it helps compare one place to another. Also I am really not fond of whiskey, cognac or vodka as a base, so the options are limited. The bartender also asked some questions like do I like lemongrass and could I handle some egg white in my drink (YES!).It was nice to get some suggestions as I would perhaps not have thought about them myself.

I could already see from the equipment they had at hand that we were going to see some party tricks. I don’t mind as long as my drink is good. M’s cocktail arrived with a flaming branch or rosemary, and mine with a long lemongrass sticking out of the Martini glass. Looking around others had pretty cool looking drinks as well, and none of them looked the same. The staff seemed to like experimenting and you could see they were having fun with it. The taste was wonderful, like a mix of a fresh breeze and dessert (due to the creaminess of the egg white) with spices on top.

We only had one round of drinks this time, but I can imagine I could have sat there sipping on cocktails for a full evening. The ambiance was charming and relaxed and the cocktails excellent. As with many nice bars these days, it is possible to reserve a table (I remember the days in Finland when it cost something and you only got a crappy bottle of Vodka and some mixers as “compensation”). There doesn’t seem to be any food or snacks, so my recommendation would be to have dinner before going.

Bar Stories, I love you and I hope we meet again soon!

Cocktail-Hopping at Bitters & Love

As I mentioned in the last Wineweek, we did some cocktail-hopping over Valentines day weekend. Because we were concerned there would be a lot of people out, and we wanted to visit as many places as possible, we set out on our journey already at 6pm. Great choice as we had no trouble getting a seat at Bitters & Love, a much talked about “speakeasy” here in Singapore. The bar is not really what you could call a real speakeasy. It’s located in the back room of a restaurant called Shoebox Canteen. There are no signs outside, but you can already see from the door that there is something going on in the back. The look of the place is lightly hipster, but I suspect that the real pioneers have already moved on to something new and cooler. I don’t mind at all, I am here for the cocktails, not to get on the good side of the in-crowd (I’m too old for that).

The concept is simple: you have a menu with a set of flavours (sweet, sour, spicy etc) and a list of spirits. You tell the bar tender the spirit and flavour of your choice (you do not need to limit yourself to the list provided either) and perhaps describe what kind of ingredients you like (I love stuff like ginger, cucumber and mint in my drinks), and the bartender will make you a drink based on that. Awesome if you are a person who likes surprises (not so awesome if you are not). I chose a nice Gin and asked for something spicy (not Asian spicy, but in the medium range) and M selected a dark Rum and asked for something fresh and full. After a short wait we were served a pair of beautiful drinks that did not disappoint neither in looks or taste. Both wishes had been taken into account and we got to taste something new.

We also ordered some bar snacks as a substitue for a ‘proper’ dinner: some truffle fries, chicken fritters and sliders. All were pretty decent. Not the best gourmet experience of my life, but took away the hunger. The only real disappointment for us was that we could not order from the Shoebox Canteen menu and eat at the bar. Perhaps they have this policy to make sure the cocktail bar stays as a cocktail bar, I would just really have liked to have a larger menu. All in all, Bitters & Love was an excellent experience. Not the cheapest cocktail bar in town with drinks ranging from 19-26 SGD, but at par with other places (it’s the weakening Swedish krona that is killing me). I definitely recommend popping by if you are in Singapore. If you can’t make it before 8pm, I recommend reserving a table up front.