This was a gifted event.
Having eaten there before I was really looking forward to this cocktail masterclass at L’Ortolan. I thought the idea of pairing cocktails with canapés was really interesting; wine, beer, cheese and charcuterie are all well matched but how would it work trying to match the complex, sweet flavours in a cocktail with a canapé?
The masterclass was held by Jayson, L’Ortolan’s resident mixologist and Marco, GM, was on hand to answer any questions. There was quite a collection of bottles, jars and ingredients on the bar containing dried fruits, flowers, freeze-dried raspberries and all manner of different colours and flavours of syrups. All the syrups that are used in the cocktails are made in house which I think really gave the cocktails an added edge.
First up was the Caribbean Sunrise cocktail, currently their most popular cocktail on the menu. A mix of dark rum, honey, fresh grapefruit and orange juice, elderflower, lime and mint. This is the sort of cocktail that I would definitely order and it was surprisingly crisp and zingy. The honey and elderflower were not overpoweringly sweet and the lime, grapefruit and orange made it so fresh.
The canapé served with the Caribbean Sunrise was a flaxseed cracker with caviar, smoked cod roe emulsion, pickled cucumber and dill mayonnaise. It looked almost like a mini rock pool! The saltiness of the caviar, the smokiness of the cod roe and the freshness of the herbs worked really well with the fruity flavours in the cocktail.
Next to try was the Mai Tai which originated in 1944. A blend of dark and white rums, lime and two homemade syrups: demerara and vanilla and orgeat (almond, orange and rose). I really liked this cocktail and the orgeat syrup gave it a flavour reminiscent of sweets, almost with a whiff of Turkish Delight. The balance of sweetness and acidity was again really good without one overpowering the other.
Both the bread and the butter are made in house giving L’Ortolan such control over the texture and flavour. A steak tartare canapé was matched to the Mai Tai and it was fantastic: brioche crouton, fillet steak tartare, lightly pickled shimeji mushrooms and radish. It was rich in flavour and lifted so well with the mushrooms; combined with the alcohol from the rum with the sweet syrups and sharp lime it was a really good match.
This cocktail was my favourite of the evening; the Diwata. A Diwata is a mystical creature in Philippine mythology and the cocktail uses Don Papa rum which is made in the Philippines.
The rum is mixed with fresh pink grapefruit juice, lychee syrup and lemon juice. A relatively short list of ingredients but it packs such a fantastic flavour; it’s the lychee syrup that makes it so good. The Tiki glass I had my cocktail in is affectionately known as ‘Angry Bob’ by the staff! It was topped with dried grapefruit slices and tasted so full of summer flavour.
A duck bon bon was paired with the Diwata. Meltingly tender duck, fried in breadcrumbs and topped with a nasturtium and basil mayonnaise and pickled mushrooms. The richness of the duck was really good with the strong rum and sharp grapefruit in the Diwata.
Last up was a cocktail that I would not normally order, I’m not a big fan of coconut in drinks you see. However I was pleasantly surprised and actually really enjoyed the Bahama Mama; it tasted like a holiday. A mixture of dark rum, coconut liqueur, orange and pineapple juice, pineapple and coconut syrup and grenadine. It was topped with dried lime slices and freeze dried raspberries.
To accompany the Bahama Mama were pea and mushroom arancini. You can’t go wrong with arancini as far as I’m concerned. Rich in flavour and with a hint of truffle the nasturtium mayonnaise on the top added a grassy freshness. The zesty, sweet juices in the cocktail worked well with the earthy mushroom filling in the arancini.
This masterclass was all about Tiki cocktails and over the coming months there is a different theme to each class. The cocktail menu has seasonal features and there are a few mocktails on the list too. Expect to pay £15 for a cocktail and £9 for a mocktail. The cocktail masterclasses are £40-45 per person.
I’d love to see (and eat!) the other combinations of cocktails and canapés that are coming up. I found the whole experience really interesting and I learnt a lot about the history of the cocktails we were making and the provenance and attention of detail that had gone into the food.
I was invited to the cocktail masterclass at L’Ortolan as a guest and the class was paid for by L’Ortolan, thank you to them. All words and opinions expressed are my own.