Shake It Off
In amongst the niche pop-ups and eye-catching hairstyles, East London delivers up a drinks spot with a cocktail making class to boot
Article by Izzy Ashton
There is a hum that descends on a city as 5 pm comes round on a Friday. A hum of expectation, excitement and downright exhaustion that pushes offices into pubs and millennials into pop-ups. A hum that resembles a sigh, like the city taking a deep breath at the end of a long week.
It is during this weekly hum that I find myself, not holing up in the same old joint for a pint of watery lager but pushing my way through central London and into Shoreditch, to check out the latest drinks hub this side of town, TT Liquor. The project is designed to offer a range of experiences, from a specialist liquor store to the subterranean cocktail bar and, for the reason I am there, the cocktail making classes.
Now I know for the cynics out there – in case you hadn’t noticed I’m one of you – will roll their eyes at the thought of cocktail making…in East London…underground. But bear with me for this one.
TT Liquor has that distinctly new smell of a place that is just starting to find its footing in an area saturated with Instagrammable experiences. The wood is shiny, the bottles sparkle and the staff have a first-day-at-school friendliness that makes you unconsciously smile back.
We are led back through an unassuming door in the bottle-lined wall into what feels like a supremely cool science lab. Short mixing benches line each side of the room, all facing the table which sits on a platform at the front. We take our places, feeling decidedly like we need to be putting on our safety goggles and polishing up our test tubes for the ensuing experiment.
Thankfully, no goggles are needed as our brilliant mixologist Leo takes his place and begins quizzing us on the various cocktail mixes, drinks and the general history of liquor. There is an array of kit on the bench in front of us, all of which we want to touch and play with as Lou walks us through the first drink.
We make four in total led by Lou, interspersed with chatting to our co-creators and learning some cocktail general knowledge, like the fact that 70% of our taste comes from our nose before it even hits our taste buds. Which is just incredible. I will now be conducting every review nose first.
Cocktail number one was a lychee concoction served in an ice cold martini glass. It was sweet with a sour undertone and got us off to a rolling start while we mixed up our second, the mint julep. This was no ordinary julep as we shimmied up crushed ice with gin, mint, apple juice and elderflower cordial. This one was such a hit that I re-created it at the weekend, to great success I might add.
A whiskey sour followed with Lou demonstrating his prowess at separating an egg with one hand, a skill I didn’t try and match. Our final teacher-led cocktail was a Mai Tai, once known supposedly as “the best cocktail in the world”. Rum based and served in a Aztec-style beaker, the final flourish was to douse the drink in Wray and Nephew, sprinkle on some cinnamon and set the whole thing on fire. Picture, perfect.
The final challenge, to be conducted under the influence of the delicious drinks, was to brew up our own creation. There seemed to be no rules apart from the taste had to be to Leo’s liking. We worked diligently at our task, throwing splash after splash of various liquids into the pot. After a vigorous shake, the resulting, very appropriate, millennial pink drink, was served in a short glass, with a flourish of mint. Sadly it did not win the overall competition – much to my teacher’s pet disappointment – but it did look good on the front bench.
Cocktails and me have always had a relatively volatile relationship, having had a few bad experiences in the past. But, if you’re looking to try a few worth tasting, and learn a new skill while you’re at it, head on over to East London. There are gems over there, if you know where to look.
Enquiries: TT Liquor, 17B Kingsland Road, London E2 8AA; 020 3131 5087; www.ttliquor.co.uk