January is depressing enough without removing any more joy from it by going dry, so when I heard “cocktails at Tom’s Kitchen” I was happy to oblige.
Situated next to Harvey Nichols, Tom’s Kitchen is an open plan restaurant with leather seating and low warm lighting for an upmarket yet intimate feel. There’s also a separate bar area for pre-dinner drinks; basically it’s got date night written all over it.
I’ve visited this Mailbox favourite before for supper (you can read about that here) but wasn’t aware of its cocktail menu until attending a recent mixology class.
The two-hour session was designed to give a handful of guests a hands on lesson in crafting classic cocktails, led by one of the Birmingham venue’s top bartenders, Noel. Held in the beautiful private dining room, away from the hustle and bustle of the restaurant, we were taught the origin of each cocktail before crafting and enjoying the three drinks.
Having had the week from hell, and because god knows I needed a drink, I put myself forward in the first wave of makers. Despite spilling things and laughing every time poor Noel said the word rimmed, the end results were pretty good.
The shaken one
First up, the PomPom – invented by Noel – made from Absolute Citron, Fair Kumquat Liqueur and pomegranate juice. One for those that love a shaken cocktail, this ruby beauty combined 25ml of the citrus vodka and 25ml of the liqueur before being sloshed with 50ml of fruit juice.
Before pouring through the hawthorn strainer (see I listen!) a segment of orange is swished around the rim of the martini glass before it’s rolled liberally in a homemade orange sugar. The result is a clean, fresh tasting drink that still manages to have a good kick.
The fizzy one
Next up I tried my hand that the Poinsettia; a sparkling cocktail. Akin to a Bellini, this pretty little thing only uses a few ingredients but requires a little more skill. First 25ml of both cranberry juice and Grand Marnier are combined in a champagne flute. Tattinger Champagne is then slowly added to top up the cocktail by pouring it down the (not very imaginatively named) long spoon.
Initially the drink separates to give pretty layers, before it’s gently stirred to combine the flavours. This one wasn’t as tasty as the Pom Pom to me, although people around me seemed to really enjoy it.
The stirred one
Last but most definitely not least, my favourite of the three: a classic Gin Martini. Combining 25ml each of Bimber Gin and Martini Extra Dry, this was stirred gently over cubed ice for 20-30 seconds before being transferred to a martini glass.
A piece of lemon peel was curled and added to the martini, providing a crisp and strong drink. Simple but potent; my kind of cocktail.
Fun fact: Bimber stands for moonshine, which I like to think is why this knocked me on my arse within 10 minutes.
The secret one
Before we said goodbye I managed to bribe lovely Noel into crafting one of his signature drinks: the CBGV. Having mentioned this earlier in the night I knew I wanted to try one as soon as I heard about it. Antica Ricetta Sweet Vermouth is shaken with (more) Bimber Gin, and mixed with muddled fresh basil leaves and red chilli.
This was truly remarkable; warm without being brutal on the spice, fragrant, and just sweet enough. I was gutted to discover this is no longer on the menu, but if you visit on a night Noel is there he’ll rustle it up for you on the sly. He’s a good egg, that chap.
Aside from cocktails, the bar has a decent wine selection plus knowledgable servers willing to advise you on pairings to go with dinner. On my last visit I very much enjoyed the Trapiche Malbec (on the excellent recommendation of our waitress), if that’s more your thing.
I’d previously lost my enthusiasm for cocktails after a series of overly sugary concoctions from nearby bars. It was nice to get back to basics and enjoy some drinks that focus on using a handful of quality ingredients, rather than theatrics. If like me you think a good cocktail is all about keeping it simple then the offerings from Tom’s Kitchen will likely be up your street.
If you’re interested in trying these drinks, some are available for two for one on classic cocktails from 6 – 7pm through the working week, or for £35pp you can attend the masterclass with friends which includes three drinks.
Have you tried the cocktails here before? Are you a fan? Let me know in the comments.
Tom’s Kitchen, Mailbox, Wharfside Street, Birmingham, B1 1RE
Disclosure: I attended a cocktail making class as a guest of Tom’s Kitchen. Drinks were complementary which made at least one day of January less bleak