As our globe-trotting readers will know, there’s an exclusive Smith extra waiting for you at all our luxury boutique hotels around the world, thanks to our free Mr & Mrs Smith membership. But sometimes, this little treat is so tantalising we simply have to dispatch someone to try it out. This week we spent an afternoon testing the cocktail masterclass at the ravishing Kensington Hotel in London – oh yes, it’s a hard life.
A word to the wise: when stepping behind a well-stocked bar for a crash course in mixology, it is best – really, truly best – not to have already imbibed several cocktails in the name of research.
At master mixologist Alessandro Pizzoli’s invitation, I’d slid off my leather bar stool and slinked round the sleek marble top to join him at the helm of the Aubrey Bar, Kensington Hotel’s jewel box of a watering hole. I stared at the cockpit-like arrangement before me – a gleaming prepping area of crisp napkins, surgical tongs, chunky muddlers, quartered fruit and crushed ice. Alessandro (right) handed me a napkin and a sugar cube. ‘Go ahead’, he said, with the amused confidence of a man who has beaten off stiff competition from London’s finest hotels to bag himself – amongst others – two Galvin cups, the prestigious mixology prize.
I looked listlessly at the sugar cube, acutely aware that I had not been paying attention to his elaborate explanations. In my defence, it’s easy to be distracted – by the bright lights of the bar’s Sixties-chic chandeliers, say, or the dainty trays of spiced popcorn and wasabi peas. Thankfully my partner-in-crime, who had already pulled off a decent (if slightly addled) mojito, had been taking notes:
Chill a glass with crushed ice. Place a napkin on the glass, a sugar cube on top of that, add a few drops of Angostura Bitters. Drop the sugar in, splash with soda, and muddle until it’s dissolved. Top with ice cubes, a very generous measure of whisky, and waft an orange twist in the cocktail’s general direction.
There was also something fiddly involving citrus peel, a sharp knife and a candied cherry, but by this time I’d reached delirious levels of elation at making my first Old Fashioned.
Exclusively designed for Mr & Mrs Smith guests, the Kensington Hotel’s cocktail experience lets you play at Tom Cruise in Cocktail (minus the floral shirts). Take your pick from four tongue-in-cheek Smith-inspired drinks such as Tried and Trusted, a classic martini (stirred, not shaken, please), or Truly Madly Deeply, a passion fruit concoction for the escape fantasists. Alessandro will guide you through making the drink, dispensing expert knowledge on the different types of vermouth, or the way to infuse a drink with mint without muddying it. He’ll also adapt the recipes to suit different palates, or go off-piste if asked: try the Americano, a refreshing summery blend of Campari, sweet vermouth and soda. You may need some more fortifying snacks to make it through the class – the hand-dived scallops and moreish fish cakes from the restaurant next door make an excellent stomach-liner.
As for my Old Fashioned? It was vile, of course, the heavy-handed work of a tipsy philistine. Sometimes, it’s best to leave it to the masters.
Not a member yet? You crazy fool! Find out more about free BlackSmith membership and browse the benefits (including complimentary champagne, hotel offers, free spa treatments and, of course, cocktail-making masterclasses…)