Cocktail Masterclass at Tom’s Kitchen

I will confess, by the end of 2017, I  had reached peak ‘cocktail making session’. They became quite the in thing for all blogger events, usually involving a lot of sugar syrup and fruit juice. I hit saturation point, and came to the conclusion that I much prefer ordering cocktails than shaking them myself. Until, that is, Tom’s Kitchen came to the rescue, with a well-structured, actually rather useful, cocktail masterclass.

Tom's Kitchen Cocktail Masterclass

A gang of bloggers gathered in one of Tom’s Kitchen’s private dining rooms, and were met by lovely cocktail wizard, Noel. He explained the masterclasses consist of three cocktails, usually on a theme (Classics, Sparkling, Seasonal, etc.), and for the evening, he’d be teaching us a different skill with each cocktail.

Pompom

He began with a creation of his own, the Pompom, which is a combo of lemon vodka, kumquat liqueur and pomegranate juice.

Sugar Rim

Our first skill of the evening: the sugar rim. Noel ran a wedge of orange around the top of the glass, and then gently rolled the glass into the dish of orange sugar. Easy, and something you could easily do at home to add a bit of fancy to your drinks making.

The ingredients go into a Boston Shaker and get a good shake with ice. I’m generally a bit naff at this bit, but Noel actually explained the correct way to hold the shaker to avoid getting cocktail all over yourself, and how you can tell you’ve shaken it enough. I’ve shaken cocktails many times at blog events, but never actually been told that the shaking is complete when the metal part gets cold to the touch and has a nice layer of condensation across it. Under Noel’s guidance, I was also able to get the glass free of the metal tumbler on my own, for the first time ever. A good start!

Cocktail making

Shaking complete, into the glass, as modelled by the lovely Bite Your Brum. I was expecting this cocktail to be very sweet, but it actually wasn’t at all. Instead it was pleasingly fruity, and very drinkable.

Poinsettia

Next up was the Poinsettia, a champagne cocktail with Cointreau and cranberry juice. To create these pretty layers, you start by putting the Cointreau and the juice into a champagne flute. Get a bar spoon, and rest the flat part of the bottom of the spoon onto the surface of the juice. Slowly pour the champagne down the twisty bit of the spoon, carefully lifting the spoon up with the champagne as you go. Lift the spoon out, and there you go. Layers.

Champagne Cocktails

I don’t have the steadiest of hands, and I was expecting to make a total mess of this, but it’s actually a lot simpler than it looks. Pour slowly, and move the spoon slowly, and you’ll be fine. The above is my attempt, and I think I made some pretty good layers!

Gin Martini

Lastly, a classic Gin Martini. We made the stirred version, which is super simple to do, and Noel showed us how to create those pretty curls of lemon peel, by wrapping the peel around a stirrer. Top tip, do this over the glass, and any juice squeezed out will drop into the cocktail. Delicious!

CBGV

Noel had made the mistake of telling us about another of his creations, that sounded amazing, so we made a fuss until he very kindly rustled one up for us to try. This is the now off-menu CBGV, which combines Bimber Gin, sweet vermouth, basil leaves and fresh chilli. I love a savoury cocktail, and this was absolutely delicious, with a delicate hit of spice. If you’re in the bar of Tom’s Kitchen, ask for Noel, and I’m sure he’d be happy to make you one, even though it is no longer on the menu.

After my masterclass burn-out, I was pleasantly surprised by how good and interesting this was. I learned some new tricks I can easily recreate at home to step up my drink making game.

The masterclasses can be booked at £35 a head (£40 for sparkling cocktails) for groups between 6 and 12 people. Current classes offered are Classics, Tom’s Favourites, Seasonal and Sparkling, but if you want something specific, it’s definitely worth asking. Find out more about the classes here.

I was a guest of Tom’s Kitchen and Rewired PR, and the masterclass was complimentary in exchange for honest review. All words, images and opinions are my own. 

New Whisky Bar Lands in Birmingham

The fabulous people at The Birmingham Whisky Club have taken over a space next to the Museum of the Jewellery Quarter, and converted it into a gorgeous new whisky bar; the first bar in Birmingham dedicated to whisky. I went along on Burns Night for a cheeky nose (and a wee dram or two).

Birmingham Whisky Club

Whisky Bar Birmingham

It’s a much bigger space than I expected, with plenty of seating, and a back bar groaning with treats. I’ve heard whisper of up to 300 different whiskies being stocked, as well as a selection of other drinks connected to the whisky world. If you’re not much of a whisky drinker, but have whisky mad friends, you can still join them here, and try barrel-aged gins, gins made in whisky distilleries, ports, sherries, cognacs, wines, and whisky-finished beers.

The new bar will be playing host to Whisky Club events and tasting sessions, but will be open to the general public too. Looking for something a little different? Order a story! A selection of tasting flights have been created, complete with an accompanying story, from a beginner’s guide, to a journey through Japanese whisky.

Whisky Bar

If you’re already a whisky aficionado, with the huge range here, there’s sure to be something new you haven’t tried. If you’re new to whisky, I’ve always found Amy and her team to be friendly, knowledgable and helpful, and they’d be delighted to start you on your whisky journey.

The bar opens to the public in mid February, so keep an eye out!

I was invited to the Burns Preview Night, and got a free dram just for being there, nice people that they are. I was not asked to blog. All words, opinions and images are my own. 

Natural Healthy Foods, Birmingham

I’m not going to pretend I greeted January with a health kick, but lots of more virtuous folk I know have. It’s nice to at least attempt a healthier meal once in a while though, and when the lovely Miss Pond suggested I join her and some other blog friends for a dinner at Natural Healthy Foods, I was intrigued.

Naturally Healthy Foods

Attached to a health food shop, the cafe is a light and airy space. The set-up here, however, is a little different from the norm. Instead of a menu, the food is laid out buffet style, with a selection of hot and cold options, and you pay by weight. All the food is vegan, with loads of options also organic, gluten free and free from refined sugars. Be warned though, a lot of the food involves nuts, so steer clear if you have a nut allergy.

We grabbed some plates and hit the buffet, slightly overwhelmed by the amount of options.

Vegan food

Vegan buffet
Healthy food
Hummus
Singapore Noodles

There are lots of thing to choose from, and the menu changes regularly. When we went there were plenty of dishes to tempt us including a vegan cauliflower cheese, singapore noodles, pasta, curries, and lots more.

Pesto Pasta

We opted to try a scoop of most of the cold dishes for a first round. A friendly staff member weighed our plates so we could see what it would have cost us. This is the part where you could run into sticky territory. There are average prices displayed, but of the four bloggers in our group, our plates were all very different prices, and to be honest, I did feel it was expensive for the amount of food, with our plates ranging from £7 to nearly £11, for essentially cold buffet food.

Vegan dinner

Nevertheless, we settled in to chomp our way through our selections. Everything was very tasty and full of flavour. From the cold, the stand-out was the mushroom dish, which was full of garlic, and absolutely delicious. Some of us went back for a second helping of this.

We went back in to test the hot dishes. The cauliflower cheese didn’t do it for me, but I am a cheese fiend, so a vegan alternative was unlikely to tick the boxes for me. The curry was excellent though, with good spicy kick and plenty of veg packed in. The lentil daal was also a garlicky, smoky treat.

Cherry Smoothie

As well as the food, there’s a huge list of coffees, teas, juices and fresh smoothies to quench your thirst. I chose the Sour Cherry and Cacao Smoothie. It was more chocolatey than I expected, but not at all sickly. The cherry cut through the sweetness, and it was very satisfying.

I was also impressed by the dessert selection, but I didn’t have space to sample them this time. They looked very tasty though, and I want to go back for a test run another time.

Vegan dessert

If you are vegan, this is a great bet for lunch or dinner, just for the sheer amount of choice when compared to the usual uninspired vegan options on most menus. The cost by weight isn’t my thing; I’d rather just pay a set price for a plate, as you might at other buffet style restuarants, and I was surprised by what our food would have cost us, had we been paying. The service was excellent though; everyone we spoke to was friendly, knowledgeable and happy to suggest their favourite dishes and drinks.

An interesting dining experience all round, and I have intense regret about not sampling that cheesecake.

I was invited by Natural Healthy Foods. All food and drinks were complementary for the purposes of honest review. All opinions, words and images are my own.