Since moving to London, I’ve become slightly addicted to the city’s constantly expanding cocktail scene, whether it be tasting a classic in a luxurious bar or ordering a theatrical concoction behind an secretive door.
I’ve developed a new found appreciation for the skill and artistry that goes into each creation and so when I found out that Reform Social were developing a new summer menu, I couldn’t resist an exclusive tasting.
Located at The Mandeville Hotel in Marylebone, Reform Social is one of my favourite lesser-known spots for a British dish with a twist or a skilfully made cocktail. After reviewing their delicious Yorkshire Pudding menu, I was always going to come back for more.
Last week I invited some of my favourite London bloggers for an exclusive tasting and cocktail masterclass with the very talented head mixologist Maciej, or Mr Magic as he’s known at Reform.
Originally from Poland, Maciej trained as a paramedic before he saw a poster for a bartender course, and well the rest is history. After working at Reform Social for only a matter of weeks, he is already making his mark and creating his own range of drinks for the bar’s autumn menu.
As the bloggers started to arrive, a platter of delicious British bites were brought out from the restaurant. The food at Reform is modestly excellent. Classic dishes such as battered cod, chunky chips with a curry sauce and strawberries with cream and meringue were scattered across the bar. I couldn’t resist the thickly sliced sausage rolls with a tangy honey and mustard dip, quintessentially British!
Taittinger Champagne was poured as we all caught up on each other’s adventures, some of us even meeting for the first time. After only blogging for a few months, I am never surprised by the welcoming and friendly community I’m now a part of.
As we settled around the bar, Maciej introduced the evening ahead. He began with his first creation, a sweet and sour gin-based cocktail. I was in awe at how quickly he whisked and shook each ingredient, the most surprising being raspberry vinegar that was expectantly sharp with a slightly sweet after note. Also added were gin, elderflower liqueur and blueberry shrub.
Maciej then talked us through the creation of their homemade grapefruit cordial, which gave the drink a fruity sour tang. The rind of the fruit is left over a centimetre of sugar for 48 hours, only uncovered once to push the rind down. Then the fresh juice is added, leaving a fresh syrup that is added to the cocktail.
The climax of the process was the smoking of the dehydrated ginger. A handful of peeled pieces were hidden under each glass before being annihilated with Maciej’s impressive blowtorch!
The drink was then shook, strained and poured into the smokey glass, topped with prosecco and ginger beer that gave it a subtle fizz.
During the entire creation I was nervous to have my first sip. I rarely order a gin based cocktail (although I think it’s more to do with my hatred of tonic) and I also despise the tart taste of grapefruit.
Yet this drink was delicious. The initial bitterness was equalled by a sweet after taste. It was perfectly strong yet refreshing and fruity. As something that I would never have ordered off the menu, I was surprised at how much I liked it.
Maciej hadn’t yet come up for a name but wanted it to represent a summer gone by. After a bit of group brainstorming, we settled on ‘Smokey Paradise’, a perfect description.
Clearing our palettes with one or two sausage rolls sips of water, we got ready for the next tasting. Nervous glances were shared as Maciej lined up the shot glasses. ‘Let’s get drunk!’ he laughed (note to self, whenever a bartender says this – it’s always a good thing).
We were assured that this potion was as short as it was simple, with only three ingredients to remember, velvet Falernum Liqueur, gin and Midori Melon Liqueur.
The light green mixture, named Summer Memories, was topped with a dehydrated lime and served with a dash of lime juice. As a quick shot or three gulps and gone, it was light and fruity, with a slight strange aftertaste I couldn’t put a name to. I’m less ‘classy’ when it comes to my shots and will normally order a disgraceful Sambuca when the moment rarely arises. But if you’re only after a quick sip, Summer Memories is a good choice.
The evening was a huge success, the perfect mix of a blogger catch up and taste of something new. Feeling a little merrier than when we’d arrived, we thanked Maciej for his incredible barmanship and wonderful creations that I hope to see on the menu in the following months.
Thank you to Aftab, Seetal, Connie, Meg, Em and Marjan for coming along and of course a huge thank you to Maciej and the team at Reform Social for a wonderful experience and allowing me to organise such a fabulous evening.
Our tasting and masterclass at Reform Social was complimentary, but as always, all views are my own.