I've said before that I don't really like cocktails - Long glasses, filled with ice, crap booze, masked by sugar and sweet juices - yuck. No thanks.
And the thing is, the vast majority of Cocktails, and Cocktail bars ARE crap, but the same could be said for beer. My opinion was based on bad cocktails in the same way as someone drinking a Carlsberg might think "I'm not sure I like beer that much...."
If we go by volume produced, and availability, then the vast majority of beer is bland, boring, and just there to quench thirst and get you a bit tipsy. Of course, if you're reading this blog then you know that there is a world of amazing beer out there to be enjoyed, and that you have to drink the right beers.
What I'm getting at is that my opinion of Cocktails was based on the wrong cocktails, and recently I feel like my opinion is changing because I've started drinking the right Cocktails, in the right places.
The bar which has played the biggest part in my Cocktail education is a new bar in Leeds called The Maven. It's something of a secret this place in that there is no sign outside, and just a plain black staircase leading up to a large solid set of double doors with a Silver 'M' handle. Very cool, yet restrained and unpretentious.
Inside is a surprisingly big space, with a period New York liquor bar feel to it. But the most important thing about this place is the quality of the ingredients, spirits and liqueurs which they use, and the passion and knowledge which the staff obviously have for mixing drinks (most have been poached from the best bars around Leeds).
I've been a few times and generally don't bother looking at the menu, it's much more fun to just let whoever's behind the bar know that I like short, strong drinks made with rum or bourbon, but if they recommend anything else then go for it. This is the sort of place where you'll be rewarded for being adventurous and trusting in their knowledge, and I'm yet to receive a drink I didn't enjoy.
My favourite so far is a short drink made with Appleton Estate Extra 12 Year Old Rum, some Campari, grapefruit peel (not juice, just peel for the aromatics), and some other stuff that I didn't pay attention to. It's served in a tumbler with a ball of solid ice which keeps the drink very cold but doesn't dilute it. It's quite simply, stunning.
Colette's favourite is the bar's White Lady. It's a sour cocktail made with dry gin, Cointreau, lemon juice, and egg white which tastes like a cross between a boozy lemon sorbet and a sort of soft lemon meringue.
But my advice isn't to walk in and ask for these two drinks. These are our favourites.
What you should do is go and find out yours.
1 Call Lane,
up the stairs and through the door marked M...
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