I look to my right and all I see is a giant ball of flame – flashing, sparking, electric. The smell of smoky cloves and oranges drifts through the room while bug-eyed people stare at the hypnotic scene at the bar.
Where was I a witness to this scene? Should you be worried for the safety of Miss Whisky and her peers?
No, of course not. The aforementioned scene took place in the relative safety of the most unusual of unusual spots: the Jub Jub Room at hidden away bar Callooh Callay with the quirky team behind Monkey Shoulder. My, I never thought I’d write that sentence! I confuse myself!
I was gathered there with a group of fellow cocktail lovers (you know who you are) to witness what Monkey Shoulder Blended Scotch Whisky cocktails Dean Callan (global brand ambassador of Monkey Shoulder) could come up with in the Alice in Wonderland-inspired surroundings.
I always love a whisky company that’s doing something a bit different (see a previous post on my thoughts on this here). The people running the oft-quirky events with Monkey Shoulder are communications group Anonymous Artists. Olivier and Katie seem stoked to be on board and it’s exciting to hear about some of their plans for the coming months like a giant Easter egg hunt (!) involving chocolate and whisky cocktails, and a special season of events entitled “For One Night Only” involving bespoke evenings around the capital which will be here one day and gone the next. More details will follow soon, I’m told, but I’m already looking forward to the happenings in the autumn.
The tricky thing with any company trying to do wacky and wonderful things is it can sometimes take away from the great taste of a product or mask one that isn’t very good in the first place – turn it into marketing hype.
Monkey Shoulder is, however, very tasty. And it paired symbiotically – for the most part – with the ingredients in the cocktails that were created for us that evening.
We started with the firey show in which a clove-studded orange peel was set alight and doused in flaming Monkey Shoulder. After the burning ceased, hot coffee was poured in to make a Cafe Diablo. It was nice, but a bit too watery for my liking – it was the only one I felt lacked that evening.
Moving on we tried the Malt Jockey – a take on the traditional Manhattan made with maraschino liqueur, sweet vermouth and chocolate bitters. It was gorgeous. I like a Manhattan almost any day of the week and, despite normally having mine served dry, this really opened up on the palate and was far from sickly sweet.
Finishing off the night was the Artist’s Special, made in honour of the Artist Bar in Paris. Its ingredients of Monkey Shoulder, Amontillado sherry, lemon juice and redcurrent syrup created flavours reminding me of raspberry ripple ice cream or sweet shop candies. The whisky wasn’t as strong in this one, so it might be considered a good beginner whisky cocktail.
It was a quirky and fun evening and I can’t wait to see what monkey business will be pulled out of the bag next. And, for those of you wishing to create your own spectacular cocktail at home, check out the recipe for the Malt Jockey, below, and get shaking (preferably with Alice in Wonderland playing in the background!).
40ml Monkey shoulder
30ml sweet vermouth
7-10ml maraschino liqueur
2 dashes chocolate bitters
Stir and strain