Rachel, a secret location in Dublin
Last weekend I was feeling more grateful than normal for all my wonderful friends and family as I was spoiled rotten for my birthday with dinners, afternoon tea and many, many cocktails. Among all these delicious treats The Boyfriend maintained an air of mystery and told me only to keep Saturday afternoon free for a cocktail class; no further details were offered. I was intrigued; what, where, who, how do you know about something like this and I don’t??
Apparently, I should forgive him for all the time he spends with his head buried in his iPad. He had come across The Blind Pig speakeasy and had rightly thought that one of their cocktail masterclasses would be the perfect birthday treat for me. At the designated hour we set off for the AIB ATM on Wicklow Street, phoned a number and said 'We want to see the Blind Pig!' A few moments later Paul appeared and led us down a dark and dingy alley to our secret location, I was thrilled by the little bit of drama!
I was delighted to recognise our host and mixologist, Paul, as I have attended classes with him before, in Saba and a long while ago in The Vaults. Paul is an excellent teacher as he has a clear passion for his ingredients and the quality of his cocktails. Unfortunately my memory of some of the finer details of the evening is a little bit hazy as, unlike Aoife at her recent wine tasting, I was not spitting any of these out!
Paul made us a Tom Collins (top) as soon as we arrived, a refreshing mix of gin, lemon juice, sugar and soda water. He emphasised that a classic cocktail like this should be made with the ingredients it was named after, he had used Hayman's Old Tom gin.
While we were enjoying our Tom Collins, Paul talked us through some of the finer points of cocktail making and the origins of The Blind Pig. Paul then demonstrated each of the following three cocktails and we went up to the bar to taste his, mix up our own and see how they compared. The first cocktail we got to make was the Bronx, a mixture of gin, orange juice, sweet and dry vermouth, an orange slice and a maraschino cherry with some of its syrup. The flavour combination of cherry and orange reminded me faintly of christmas, usually a winner, but this wasn't my favourite. While I am making great strides in my efforts to be friends with gin this was still a little strong for my tastes.
Our next cocktail was right up my alley, anything pink and fruity usually is. The Bacardi Cocktail is only one of two cocktails in the world to be copyrighted (the other is the Dark 'N Stormy) meaning it has to be made with Bacardi or you have to change the name - Paul makes a slightly different version called a Cuban Cosmo which I very much like the sound of! This one is made with Bacardi, lime juice and grenadine syrup and Paul told us that the Monin brand of syrups make a genuine grenadine from pomegranates, you can taste the difference, I could have drunk these all afternoon.
I wasn't sure I was going to like our last cocktail, an Old Fashioned, at all. Dark spirits aren't usually my tipple of choice. However, this was a real lesson in how using quality spirits and mixing them with care can make a difference. We used Woodford Reserve bourbon, the same one Aoife uses in her recipe, a small amount of sugar syrup and, once we had added ice, carefully counted our number of stirs to get the right level of dilution. Garnished with a twist of orange zest I was extremely surprised at how much I liked it, the perfect sipping drink.
This was the perfect way to spend a Saturday afternoon. Paul's enthusiasm for great cocktails is infectious and the quality of the ingredients is top notch. I shall be keeping a close eye to see when the next speakeasy night is coming up to taste some more of his creations.
The Blind Pig run speakeasy nights, tastings and cocktail masterclasses. To find out more follow them on facebook and twitter
087 114 5671