I hope this blog post finds you well, and looking forward to a delicious cocktail or two (that’s why you’re here right?). Monk stalwarts will recognise that we’ve just given our website an overhaul. We’ve tried to create an easier to use, and more personal website to properly reflect the Monk experience. Part of that is our new Blog which occupies our homepage. The over-the-bar chats we have with our wonderful guests is what makes this whole act of trying to serve some interesting, delicious drinks worth doing, and we wanted to extend that in to our online presence too. What better way to do that than a blog of our experiences, new and exciting mens things, and the friends we make at the bar?
With the launch of our new Autumn menu bright on the horizon, I thought I’d write a little post about the development we go through to create our unique, seasonal menus. The first stage being a get together to discuss the flavours and ideas we feel accurately represent Autumn. We decided that for this season we really wanted to challenge ourselves, so this Autumn Menu will be a little different to what our Monk regulars are used to. It will be a little shorter (12-15 drinks) but now with every drink we will do all we can to encapsulate all your senses and try to communicate a story or experience.
In order to up our game, and deliver this new experience we needed to learn some new skills. So myself (Mannie) and our own Mr Freddie Ayre-Smith ventured in to the development kitchen of MSK ingredients - a molecular gastronomy centre - to learn some new skills and develop some new ideas. We had an awesome time with their amazing Chef Vicky where were learned how to make sorbets you can set on fire without them melting, how to make instant ice lollies with liquid nitrogen, how to put hot and cold liquids in one glass without them ever mixing together and how to turn something as innocuous as a bit of fruit juice in to a wonderful, light, hugely flavourful foam - among other things. We even tried to smoke some shisha tobacco through a cocktail, as Freddie can be seen here experiencing…
Some new skills, and plenty of inspiration later, we’ve started putting these techniques in to practise. One example of which has meant I can finally finish a cocktail idea that’s been floating around my brain for a year at least. There’s a little distillery out in Wales called Da Mhile who make a wonderful seaweed infused organic gin, that has all the subtle botanicals of a classic dry gin, with just the right amount of seaweed that tastes sweet, savoury and salty all at once. It really grabs hold of your taste buds and makes sure they’re all awake. As soon as I tried it, I new I wanted to make a cocktail inspired by the British coastline - salt in the air, waves crashing on rocks, subtle vegetal notes inhabiting the air, and of course, beautiful on the eye.
The base is Seaweed Gin, a touch of Elderflower Liqueur is added - not so much it tastes elderflower-y but just enough to round out the inherent floral notes of the gin, and a little magic (malic) acid. Magic acid is the acid found in things like apples and a couple drops of it in a drinks provides the crisp, dry acidity you’d normally get from the limes in your G&T without adding any lime flavour - after all we don’t grow limes on the British coast - it also makes you salivate and enhances all your other tasting faculties, i.e. it makes sweet flavours sweeter, savoury more savoury and the overall flavour-volume of your drink louder. Atop this base, I add some edible chocolate rocks, a little rosemary sprig and some salty samphire. As well as adding to this cocktail’s flavour profile it also creates a mini, edible, coastline diorama.
The finishing touch - the one I’ve been looking for for a year - is a salted, scotch foam. This captures the appearance of waves breaking on the rocks and the sea foam lapping on the shore line, and the taste you get in your mouth when strolling down a windy British coastline. I’m delighted with the result, and hope you can all enjoy it too!
Heart of the Sea
50ml Da Mhile Organic Seaweed Gin
5ml St Germain Elderflower Liqueur
5 drops Malic Acid Solution
Stir with cubed ice.
For the Foam:
50ml Lagavulin 16yr
50ml Salted Water
10ml Activated Sugar Esters Paste.
Garnish w/ Samphire, Rosemary, Edible Chocolate Pebbles and foam
I also set to work using a new ingredient I stumbled upon - Bamboo Charcoal. Bamboo charcoal has long been used to purify water, fruits and veg and even people skin with its natural toxin trapping qualities. Eschewing any sort of ‘health’ drink goal, I instead went down the Japanese influence route. So Japanese Whisky comes together with a little, very lightly Lapsang Souchong infused sake and some cinnamon syrup, and of course a a dash of Bamboo Charcoal. The simple recipe yields a beguilingly complex drinks, with notes of malts, oak, smoke and cinnamon with softer, floral, gently fruity notes appearing on the finish. It goes to show, sometime you don’t need some crazy technique or new skill to make a beautiful drink, you just need those skills at the heart of bartending - the ability to balance and remain sensitive to your ingredients.
Charred I’m Sure
40ml Nikka All Malt Whisky
20ml Lapsang Souchong Infused Dorango Sake
10ml Cinnamon Syrup
1.25ml Bamboo Charcoal
Garnished w/ Orange Zest.
Stir with cubed ice.
(Sorry it was so delicious me and Freddie drank most of it before we remember to take a picture)
Thanks for reading guys and gals. Our new menu is launching the end of September. If you’ve any idea stories that you think would make a wonderful drink then talk to us and who knows, your story could end up being cast in liquid form! - Mannie
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I'm busy working on my blog posts. Watch this space!