"Any bloggers interested in cocktails" now that is a calling and shout out that nobody could ignore, so when i seen the Filling Station (@FSrestaurant) on twitter ask for bloggers local to Edinburgh who were interested in learning more about exceptional cocktails then i had no choice but to put my hand in the air as high as possible and shout "Me Me Me".
The Filling Station has always been quite dear to me, I used to work on George IV Bridge in Edinburgh and the Royal Mile restaurant was a regular haunt for me from around 1992-1996 when i worked in Edinburgh. I genuinely couldnt count the number of times i've been in there drinking Zombies and Harvey Wallbangers back in the day, so seeing how cocktail fashions have changed really was something that interested me.
So fast forward a week or so and I'm catching up with Barry Bradford (@BarryMBradford) of The Whisky Philes and his lovely Fiancee Paula as we head into the Filling Station in Edinburghs Omni Centre for a Cocktail Masterclass.
We're met by a couple gorgeous ladies from the Filling Station marketing department, seated near the front of the restaurant and asked if we would like a drink, now how could we refuse as Barry and I both plump for Whiskey Sours. This particular Sour was made using Makers Mark and was a fabulous way to start the evening, lots of bitter lemon mixing really well with the whiskey, probably the best Whiskey Sour i've had.
The small pic right shows our starters for the evening, with Paula (who was on driving duty) drinking some amazing Moktails, lets be honest here, the Moktails look and taste fantastic and are great for anyone on driving duty or for a group of, not old enough for alcohol, girls and guys looking for something that feels more grown up.
We were then joined at our table by a couple of other, non whisky, bloggers being Kylie (@kyliecb5) from A Consequential Adventure and Alison (@alleyhope) from Alleyhope.com before we were all taken aback by the mountains of food that arrived at our table.
Then it was time to get down to the nitty gritty as we moved over to the bar for our compere for the evening Heart Drivetime's Paul Harper (@iampaulharper) to give us a little introduction to the evening and to introduce Andy Pearson (@intoxicologyuk) from Intoxicology who would be taking this evenings cocktail masterclass.
Andy and Paul Behind the Bar
By this stage it was time to move onto another cocktail, so after a quick glance at the menu i'd plumped for a Black Raspberry (pic right) which is described on the menu as "A short drink bursting with flavour, Bombay Sapphire gin, Chambord and fresh lemon juice shaken and topped with soda".
This was fabulous, and a real change up from the Whiskey Sour, there was still that sour element from the fresh lemon but the raspberry flavours from the Chambord really did bring out the quality of the gin, and it was very easy to drink, Paula had tried a little and loved it too so i wouldnt be surprised to find that she orders one or two of these the next time she visits one of the 7 Filling Station restaurants.
By this time Andy was now in full flow, giving us a bit of background on himself and chatting about his involvement with the Filling Station and then onto some of the cocktails and ingredients with a lot of chat both from Andy and the assembled bloggers about how the use of fresh ingredients make for a better drink and how the main aim of a cocktail is to achieve "balance" so that not one flavour overpowers without there being a balance of other flavours which tantalise your tastebuds.
A bit of chat about the most expensive cocktails, yeah i'd like the £100,000 one that comes with a free Ferrari please, and then Andy started hauling willing volunteers behind the bar to make cocktails starting with a Red Berry Cheesecake.
More banter and informative cocktail knowledge ensued followed be me asking what cocktail was the longest to make, Andy's reply was the Old Fashioned as although there isn't a huge amount of ingredients it takes time to get the drink to the right consistency and ensure the sugar is properly absorbed by the liquid.
I should have stayed quiet though as I was then dragged behind the bar to make one, I managed to persuade Barry to come also and so began our lesson on how to make an Old Fashioned.
Barry, Ivan (one of the Expert Cocktail Makers) and myself behind the bar.
So it didn't feel like it took us that long to make them, but it probably was a good few minutes as Andy, Barry and I made the same drink but using 3 different Whiskeys. Andy was using Makers Mark, Barry was using Bulleit and I was using Woodford Reserve, this allowed us to see the effect of each of the different whiskeys on the final drink.
So with some sugar, a couple of types of bitters, some soda a lot of mixing, some ice some whiskey and a lot of mixing then some more whiskey and more whiskey and then a cherry more ice and more mixing before some lovely fresh orange peel is squeezed over them and added as a garnish and our final drinks were ready.
The Makers Mark version is very drinkable, lovely bourbon influence coming through, the Woodford Reserve version is much softer, sweeter and for me was easier to drink, a real session drink for sure and then the Bulleit which adds a real kick of spice to the cocktail, one that i really enjoyed but couldn't drink too much of.
This was a real fun part of the evening and I really enjoyed making my own cocktail.
At this point a few of the ladies were dragged up and lots of suggestions of contents to a new coktail were suggested and the "Edinburgh Handbag" was created, sweet and fruity with a hint of a kick this is the one you need to ask for as i don't know if anyone took a proper note of the contents.
Another blogger got to make a Mohito, with Andy using Bacardi and Kirsty using a spiced rum these were fabulous to see although there's just too much lime in there for me.
With the end of the demonstration it was time to spend more time chatting to fellow bloggers, Paul, Andy and the staff at the bar whilst i indulged in yet another drink this time a Martini made using Tanqueray Gin.
This is right up my street, and with the twist of lemon it really was refreshing enough but dry at the same time, I must remember to get these more often and not stick to some of my normal straight whisky or G&T combinations that I tend to go for. It makes a real change to what i would normally drink.
after a bit of a chat we then asked Andy about drinks made using smoky whiskies and his suggestion of a dry Martini had both Barry and I intrigued and we ended up with 3 different ones, one made with Ardbeg 10, one with Laphroaig 10 and one with Talisker 10 and what a decision that was.
So with 3 Dry whisky Martinis (stirred not shaken) to try we dove in, the Talisker Martini is the most balanced of them all, dry and with a hint of smoke but it's mainly the peppery side that comes through on the palate and works well.
The Ardbeg one was strong on the nose and died off quickly on the palate whereas the Laphroaig one for me was lighter on the nose but grew and grew on the palate. The salty olives soaked in the whisky Martinis were however wonderful.
overall a fantastic night was had with lots of knowledge imparted from Andy to a group of very interested, and very tipsy at the end of it, bloggers.
Massive thanks to the Filling Station for putting on this fantastic show and please make sure you pop along to one of their 7 Scottish restaurants, try some of their fabulous food (the burgers are to die for) and chat to the guys and girls making the cocktails about what you like and don't like and get some custom cocktails going on.
Also for those in Edinburgh the Royal Mile restaurant will be reopening soon after it's make over and I would highly recommend you pop in and check it out once it does.
How could i finish this article, well how about with a vine of the very talented Ivan who provided us with fabulous cocktails all evening, he must have sore arms after a night of doing this.