After many years serving Soho the iconic bar and industry hangout Lab will close on Sunday 11th September. The site will reopen in November as a new bar run by Bobby Hiddleston and Mia Johansson, who will own the bar in partnership with fellow husband and wife team and founders of Speakeasy Entertainment (Nightjar & Oriole), Edmund Weil and Rosie Stimpson.
A true training ground of bar industry greats, including Dre Masso, Andrea Montague and Tim Stones to name just a few, the new owners will be working with Lab to host a weekend of closing parties from 9th – 11th September. Paying tribute to Lab’s contribution to the bar industry and the iconic characters that have passed through the doors, bartending legends that worked behind the stick at Lab will be invited back for a series of final guest bartender shifts to remember and celebrate the great times that were had at the bar.
Tim Stones, ex-Lab bartender and now Global Brand Ambassador for Beefeater comments: “Lab has been the start of many bartenders’ careers. If you look at the alumnus of the place, it reads like a who’s who of drinks industry legends. I was lucky enough to spend the best part of four eye-opening years there and it became a turning point in my career. I still proudly reference it any chance I get, such was its influence. Lab will always be a special place to me and I will be sad to see it go. Having seen the passion and dedication that Bobby and Mia put into their drinks, service and venues I am looking forward to the great things they will do there. I will be among the first through the door.”
Bobby Hiddleston and Mia Johansson will lead the concept and offering of the new venue. Both are firmly established within the London bar scene and have worked at leading bars around the world, they comment: “We’re very excited for the project ahead and the new plans we have for a venue that we know means a lot to many in the industry. It’s great to be working with our new partners Edmund and Rosie, and we can’t wait to join everyone for a final get together at Lab.”
Edmund Weil and Rosie Stimpson opened the award-winning Nightjar in 2010 and were at the forefront of the speakeasy, craft cocktail trend that swept the capital. Since then Nightjar has consecutively been included in the top three of the World’s 50 Best Bars. In November 2015 they opened their second site Oriole, which recently won Best New International Cocktail Bar at the Spirited Awards in New Orleans. On partnering with Bobby and Mia they comment, “We’re very happy to be working with Bobby and Mia, they are both very talented and we can’t wait to see their vision for the new bar come to life. We’ll be joining everyone for a final farewell of Lab, before embarking on this new project together.”
Details of the guest bartenders returning to Lab and the closing parties will be announced shortly via social media, follow @LABclosingparties on Instagram and @labclosingparty on Twitter to stay updated. The new bar will open in November, more details on the concept and offering to follow.
1. With the historic Knickerbocker Hotel (birthplace of the classic dry martini cocktail) due to reopen its doors this year after almost a century, the revival of vermouth is set to continue in 2015
2. The first international Noilly Prat classic dry martini cocktail challenge kicked off with some of the world’s best bartenders showcasing their individual take on the recipe
3. Bartenders from London’s most established bars, including The Beaufort Bar at The Savoy, Quo Vadis and 69 Colebrooke Row were invited to the brand’s home in Marseillan to create a contemporary twist on the classic dry martini cocktail using innovative ingredients
4. It was a white truffle infused, honey cocktail accompanied by a carefully hand stuffed olive that won the UK heats for Steve Lawson at London’s MASH in Soho
This summer, Leblon Natural Cane Cachaça, a national treasure of Brazil, is bringing a splash of South American spirit to the UK with its delicious artisanal cocktails and must-visit experiences.
Handcrafted and produced at Maison Leblon in Minas Gerais, Brazil’s fertile agricultural heartland, Leblon Cachaça is already a favourite tipple in top culinary venues in Brazil, where cachaça is the national spirit. Cachaça is also the key ingredient to the Caipirinha, the wildly popular muddled lime cocktail.
Light and fruity with tequila-like herbal notes, Leblon Cachaça has a smooth silky texture with layers of fruity cane and spices. It mixes extremely well with almost any fruit and couples nicely with other ingredients from herbs to liqueurs – the perfect starting point for a range of delicious cocktails that capture the lively Brazilian Spirit. The Leblon Cachaça signature cocktails are a must this summer for home entertaining, including the renowned Brazilian ‘Caipirinha’, the coconut ‘Sugar Loaf Mountain Cooler’ and the refreshing ‘Leblon Ginger Ale’.
For those out and about during the summer months, Leblon Cachaça has also partnered with two of London’s leading bars to create cocktail experiences that champion the ‘Spirit of Brazil’. ‘Barzinho’ has opened at Archer Street, Soho, transforming the downstairs bar into a bold and beautiful Brazilian oasis. With vintage posters, grand carnival feathers, palm leaves from the Amazon and authentic Brazilian graffiti adorning the walls, the experience will take you on a visual and sensory journey of the bright and lively country. In addition to enjoying the legendary Leblon Caipirinha, the bar’s other signature cocktail is the award-winning ‘Leblon Redeemer’, created specially by Bar Manager, Benjamin Purslow. The ‘Leblon Redeemer’ is made with Leblon Cachaça, Campari infused with Açai Berries (Goji Berries), fresh passionfruit juice and Lime.
For those south of the river, the newly opened CocoBananas in Battersea is home to the Leblon Cachaça Campervan, bringing all the spirit and passion of Brazil to London. Set over two floors, the nightclub is a celebration of all things Brazilian, with a décor evoking the vibrant beach shacks found throughout the country. Design features include vintage surfboards, palm trees, distressed plantation shutters, and an image of Rio’s iconic Christ the Redeemer Statue. To complete the authentic Brazilian experience, the Leblon Cachaça Campervan, situated on the second floor of CocoBananas, doubles up as a bar serving mouthwatering Leblon Cachaça Caipirinhas. Signature cocktails include the ‘Beach Shack’, a memorable summertime Caipirinha treat made for sharing, served in a miniature Brazilian beach hut.
60 ml Leblon Cachaça
1 whole lime
2 teaspoons of sugar
Take a good size lime, cut it into eight wedges, and place four wedges in a rocks glass. Add two teaspoons of sugar, mash the lime and sugar with a muddler for fifteen seconds and add crushed ice up to the rim of the glass. Add the Leblon Cachaça and stir thoroughly. Garnish with a lime wedge.
Leblon & Ginger Ale
50 ml Leblon Cachaça
Ginger Ale to finish
2 lime wedges
Add cubed ice to a highball glass and pour in the Leblon Cachaça. Squeeze the juice of two large lime wedges into the glass and top with ginger ale. Stir to mix and finish with a slice of lime.
Sugar Loaf Mountain Cooler
50 ml Leblon Cachaça
25 ml Lime Juice
15 ml Sugar Syrup
Sugarcane Water or Coconut Water to finish
Add cubed ice to a highball glass and pour in the Leblon Cachaça, lime juice and sugar. Top with your choice of sugarcane or coconut water and stir to mix. Garnish with a slice of lime.
Barzinho at Archer Street, 3-4 Archer Street, Soho, London W1D 7AP
Everyone loves a good story behind a spirit brand. Whether its gone through hard times, travelled the world with its production, or simply named after a man who was coined as ‘The King of Soho’.
‘The King of Soho’ I hear you cry?
Yup, Paul Raymond himself has a gin that tips the hat at his Soho status, with his son Howard behind this new tipple that celebrates the late Paul turning Soho from a hunting ground to an area rich in creativity, music, art and modern culture. The bottle itself is said to capture Soho life with the velvet suited man reflecting the hedonistic fashion of the area, while the fox’s tail is said to symbolise Soho’s place as a royal hunting ground of Henry VIII. The fox’s more recent urban reputation as a creature of the night could also be referenced as it nods towards the smart, urban and somewhat secretive nature of Soho. The trumpet tips its hat to Soho’s rich jazz history and the fact that the character is reading a book is a tribute to Soho’s long association with creative industries such as publishing and media.
The gin itself? As you could imagine, it’s distilled in London at the Thames Distillery using traditional methods of distillation within two pot stills. It’s twelve botanicals include juniper, coriander, grapefruit peel, angelica root and cassia.
So how does this new gin fare? Well below, I give to you my tasting notes –
The King of Soho– 42%
Subtle juniper on the nose with an Autumn pine scent coming through. A small hint of citrus follows. Rather smooth on the palate, with the grapefruit coming through mostly as it warms. A tingle near the finish as it stays for a long ending. Mini fresh bursts of warm coriander appear.
A rather cracking gin to be enjoyed, but if you see it in your favourite bar, maybe try one of these too –
50 ml King of Soho Gin
15 ml Lime Juice
35 ml Pressed Apple Juice
50 ml Ginger Beer
Build in a highball glass filled with cubed ice and garnish with a slice of apple.
A gin that is better than I think you will realise, especially on its own or over ice. It’s new, but I wouldn’t be surprised if bars started to pick this up with a hurry before Christmas. As should you for your own collection.
Another event I took part in at the recent London Cocktail Week was hosted by Maxxium Brands at the Soho based Zenna Bar. Patsy Christie was our host as she talked about the Russian vodka Stolichnaya and 4 of their flavoured offerings – vanilla, citrus, raspberry and the new apple flavour.
Before I come onto the tasting profiles of the 5 spirits, a little history of Stolichnaya first.
Stolichnaya begins with its origins in the Moscow Distillery Crystal (or Moscow State Wine Warehouse No. 1). The distillery opened in 1901 by the Russian authorities to ensure higher quality vodka production. The birth of Stolichnaya itself though is surrounded in confusion. 1948 is the earliest confirmed production date of the vodka, yet the label design clearly predates this to 1946. There are also rumours that it was created by V.G. Svirida who was the extra-class distiller at the time of 1944. There is also a trademark patent dated 1938 of Stolichnaya.
In 1953 however, Stolichnaya was introduced on the international trade show in Bern and received a gold medal, the first of many. In 1972, the PepsiCo company struck an agreement with the then government of the Soviet Union. The deal involved PepsiCo being granted exportation and Western marketing rights to Stolichnaya vodka in exchange for importation and Soviet marketing of Pepsi-Cola (This exchange led to Pepsi-Cola being the first foreign product sanctioned for sale in the U.S.S.R.).
After the downfall of the Soviet Union, Stolichnaya vodka continued to be produced for export in several of the ex-Soviet republics. Because of this, the bottles retained their Soviet-era labels.
One of the most famous and long-winded legal battles began in August 1991. The Soviet patent office revoked the Soviet agency’s right to use the Stolichnaya name in Russia. This led to numerous lawsuits, including what companies could market vodka under this name in the United States. On November 20, 1992, a federal judge ruled that PepsiCo would maintain the exclusive right to the name in the United States, as allowing others to market under the name would bring a “risk of irreparable harm” to the trademark. Since 2001, Stolichnaya trademark has been an object of a dispute between the SPI Group and the government of Russia. In 2002, a Moscow court ruled that Russia would get back the rights to the Stolichnaya brand name from Soyuzplodimport (SPI). In 2009, William Grant & Sons USA signed an agreement to distribute Stolichnaya in the USA, taking over the deal made by PepsiCo.
So with a brief, and sometimes colourful history, how is Stolichnaya produced? Created in a town named Tambov, located in the Black Earth Region of Russia, the fermentation of Stolichnaya starts with wheat and rye grains as well as artesial water from the Russian city of Samara located in the Kaliningrad region. The fermentation process takes around 60 hours to be completed. Once fermentation is complete the resulting liquid is distilled four times to a strength of 96.4% ABV. The spirit is then diluted to bottling strength with more artesial well water. It is then filtered through quartz, sand, activated charcoal, and finally through woven cloth.
So with all this in mind, below are my tasting notes on Stolichnaya itself, as well as 4 of their flavoured vodkas.
Stolichnaya Red – 40%
On the nose, a potent strong alcohol smell is instantly recognisable with a sharp citrus kick following. The aromas mellow out fairly quickly into scents of almond and aniseed. A smooth taste of aniseed on the palate, with a slight harshness on the tongue. Floral extracts are noticeable with a tingle after-taste to wet the appetite for more.
Stolichnaya Vanil – 37.5%
An intense vanilla flavour on the nose dominates the senses, yet smooths out once it hits the palate. A lengthy finish follows a delicate and soft offering of Madagascan and Indonesian vanilla beans.
Stolichnaya Gala Applik – 37.5%
The nose experiences fresh red apple flavours with a slight juicy, alcohol aroma mixed in. A slight rawness on the beginning with a slight hint of pear. It leads to a short end with a little dryness on the tongue.
Stolichnaya Citros – 37.5%
A softer hit of citrus flavours than Absolut, a sweetness comes through with hints of Limonchello aromas following. A mellow beginning on the tongue turns into a heavy dose of lemon, but not enough to ruin the palate.
Stolichnaya Razberi – 37.5%
A great raspberry aroma on the nose that gives off fresh extracts. Wild menthol flavours on the palate, with hints of cherry mixed in to give a slightly stronger taste to the rest of the range.
Moving on from the Stolichnaya tasting, Patsy created for us all 3 different cocktails involving the Stolichnaya products.
Moscow Mule using Stolichnaya Red
Secret Orchard using Stolichnaya Apple
Raspberri Caiproska using Stolichnaya Raspberry
My favourite out of the three made was the aptly named Secret Orchard. A blend of Stolichnaya Apple (50ml), Elderflower (15ml) and Creme de Fraise (15ml) shaken and strained into a Martini glass. Perfection!
A twist that Patsy also put on the Raspberri Caiproska was the use of Balsamic Vinegar drizzled on top of the finished product. Looked great, tasted even greater!
Finishing the night off with cocktails from a brand that, I have to admit, I’ve never really given much time for, was a fantastic end. A bottle of Stolichnaya Apple sits proudly on my shelf with Secret Orchards being sipped away on these long Winter nights!
With 37 available flavours on the market, it might take you a while to taste them all, but I can guarantee you, the apple and vanilla flavours are personal highlights. You will not be disappointed.
OTHER STOLICHNAYA EXPRESSIONS
Stolichnaya Chocolat Razberi – 37.5%
Stong chocolate aromas hit the nose first followed by a bold raspberri scent. Lively on the palate with dark chocolate dominating but mellows quickly. A long tingle is created with a smooth, warm ending.
Stolichnaya Ohranj – 37.5%
Subtle orange on the nose with a slight kick nearing the end. Smooth on the palate with a little boost of orange that develops over the long length. A little sweet with a orange spice warmth growing nicely.
At the bottom of this article, a have posted photos that I took of Patsy creating the 3 cocktails. Enjoy!