Why should January, the bleakest, coldest and dullest month of the year also be a sober one? Give Dry January a swerve and make the most of the following opportunities to enjoy a booze-fuelled start to 2018…
Explore historic cocktails
The Langham’s Artesian Bar has long been lauded as one of the best cocktail bars in the world and, as of late December 2017, it is now serving its new ‘Cause, Effect and Classic Cocktails’ menu. Created by head bartender Remy Savage and bar manager Anna Sebastian, it is a 14-strong list, featuring delicious and imaginative reinventions of old classics, such as a pisco screwdriver, and the unearthing of hidden treasures, including the Corpse Reviver No. 1 (first made in 1920s Paris) and the Japanese Cocktail, originating from 1862. Plus, the menu doubles up as a Victorian botanical flick-book. What more could you want?
Make your own gin
The Ginstitute in Portobello Road is, believe it or not, the prime location in London for accruing a fine gin education. From gin tastings to learning the history of the spirit from in-house experts, you’ll also get to grips with how it is made and get to make your very own batch. You can take your own unique gin home with you on the night and, should your own tipple now be your favourite, you’ll be able to order it forever more, as the Ginstitute will keep your recipe on file.
Host your own cocktail party
Who says the parties have to stop after New Year’s Eve? If you fancy throwing a proper shindig at home, why not splash out on one of Clos19’s ‘Become the Host’ packages? They’ll sort out all the details. You’ll get the benefit of their expertise (and their impressive booze pedigree) and even your own bar and mixologist for your home, leaving you free to swan around the party, stress free.
Explore wine country in France
Nobody does booze better than the French, so why not indulge and pay a visit to the promised land? Vineyard hotels in the Loire valley, such as the incomparable Chateau de Rochecotte, which is hugged by the vineyards of Bourguiel, Saint Nicolas, Chinon and Saumur (and makes its own red wine) are a sumptuous treat for any vin fan. Likewise, the 19th century Chateau St Pierre de Serjac in Languedoc, which opened in 2016, has eight stunning guest rooms overlooking the vineyards of Hérault. Or head further south and try a wine tour in Provence. Grape Escapes offer a multitude of excellent trips, with accommodation and vineyard visits available for Ventaux and Châteauneuf-de-Pape.
Go on a brewery tour
It’s all very well guzzling pints of beer, but would you also like to see how it’s made? Britain boasts some of the world’s best brewery tours so there are plenty to choose from. The home of Fuller’s beer, the Griffin Brewery, is a London favourite or you can pop to the beautiful Wychwood Brewery in Witney, where Hobgoblin beer was first created in 1988. Greenwich’s Meantime Brewery is famed for its comedy nights, while Ringwood Brewery in Hampshire, in the heart of the New Forest, is a picturesque treasure; you can tour the whole place (and get a free pint) for under a tenner.
Restock your drinks cabinet
The new year is the perfect time to update your supplies, particularly if your thirsty relatives raided your drinks cabinet throughout Christmas. Why not expand your horizons with some new additions? Try the latest whisky on the scene; Copper Dog, the eight-single-malt blend was first released at the end of 2016, and is a honey-tinged treat with a great down-to-earth feel (and price.) Gin fiends might want to opt for Ragnarok Gin, a handcrafted concoction distilled in the wilds of northern Sweden, with a crisp, botanical taste to match. London’s own Gosnell’s Mead, brewed in Peckham and seen on the menus of the finest hipster jaunts, is an imaginative extra for your drinks trolley. Or why not hark back to those Malibu-drinking teen years with a sophisticated update? Koko Kanu rum is a Jamaican creation with a smooth coconut flavour, perfect for cocktails to brighten up the dark January nights.
Get a wine education
Brush up on your knowledge so you can be that person with the wine list at dinner. There are a multitude of great wine courses taking place across Britain, from London’s Berry Bros & Rudd, to the nationwide WSET course for those seeking some serious boozy credentials. Butlers Wine Cellar in East Sussex is a more informal affair offering expert tastings and the Rose Murray Brown masterclasses in Scotland offer an exhaustive selection of courses, from those wanting to learn a little bit more about what they’re drinking to quaffers keen to reach expert levels.
See the last days of the old Annabel’s
This year, London’s grandest private member’s club (and the only one Her Majesty has ever patronised) is getting a swanky revamp and a new address. Before its grand opening, why not swing by the existing club to say goodbye to a London icon? The bar menu is the perfect antidote to Dry January; the Millennial champagne cocktail is garnished with dark chocolate for extra sinfulness and the Red Eye, a clever twist on a Bloody Mary, provides the ideal morning after refresher. Not a member? Make it your mission to befriend one and have a last look at this little slice of history.
Check out the new kids on the block
A new year invites a spirit of exploration, so why not check out some of the country’s best new bar openings? Edinburgh has seen the recent arrival of the Wine House Hotel 1821, a Georgian townhouse in Picardy Place which offers ‘an immersive experience for all wine enthusiasts’ as well as a chic cocktail bar and four guest rooms, for those who can’t quite stagger home. The latest addition to a spate of new bars around Liverpool’s Baltic Market is brew-bar Gibberish, all exposed brick, painted murals and freshly-brewed beer on tap. London’s latest is new pub Sutton’s Radio, occupying the space of the legendary Old Market Tavern in Lewisham High Street.
This old-school tipple is not just for university house parties or a Dickensian Christmas. In fact, punch is having something of a revival, now served in the chicest bars around, from New York’s The Dead Rabbit to, aptly, the London Edition’s Punch Room. Banks Rum has recently collaborated with an array of mixologists to create the finest punches for you to make at home. The Pine-Apple Punch, created by drinks expert Nick Strangeway, also includes an innovative use for your old Christmas tree! Try for yourself…
1.5 litres apple juice
1 litres chilled lemon verbena tea
500ml Banks 5 Island Blend Rum
350ml Banks 7 Golden Blend Rum
300ml Douglas Fir syrup (see below)
200ml of Douglas Fir infused Banks 5 Island Blend
200ml apple molasses
100ml of citric acid solution (available in all major supermarkets)
- To create the Douglas Fir Syrup, infuse 10g of gently dried Douglas Fir needles in 250ml of boiling water for about 10-15 mins before adding 250g of caster sugar.
- Stir well to dissolve the sugar and then strain to remove the Douglas Fir needles. Keep refrigerated before use.
- Next make the verbena tea by infusing 3-4 large sprigs of fresh lemon verbena in 500ml of boiling water for 15 minutes. Or brew several verbena teabags for a few minutes.
- Add 500ml of cold water and leave for a futher 10 minutes before straining. Keep refridgerated.
- Next, infuse 5g of gently dried Douglas Fir needles in 200ml of Banks 5 at room temperature for no longer than 24 hours. Strain before use.
- To create your punch, combine all the ingredients in a large punch bowl with a large block of ice.