One unseasonably wet Tuesday not so long ago I made my way to The Botanist for an illusive event simply called #TrustYourSenses. Having had one of those days (it started with me throwing a chocolate protein shake down my top en route to a meeting; excellent adulting) I was hoping to try some of the cocktails from the latest menu update and have a girly night with my fellow bloggers.
For this intimate event we ventured out of the main bar and down the stairs to The Plant Room; a gorgeous space hidden away below the hustle and bustle of the bar itself. Deceptively large, this pretty space can be hired out for private parties and even has its own dinning room and bar. This specifically came in handy when our cocktail tasting event started, and we each pulled up a stool to get a good view of the making process.
But, much to my train-starved delight, before the booze came the food, and we were treated to a few sharing platters which included onion petals, mini sausages with honey and mustard dipping sauce, fried whitebait, olives, and spicy pork rinds. Salty nibbles consumed – those little sausages and dip are filthy good – we were ready to start tasting the latest drink additions to The Botanist’s summer menu.
The premise of the evening was simple; watch the experts shake and stir some of the new collection of cocktails – inspired by phytology, the science of plants – and guess the ingredients and flavours. Once we’d learned to (quite literally) trust our senses we’d be given the opportunity to craft our own tipples to impress the others; my brain was juggling gin and rosemary muddling before our host had finished explaining.
Given no hints as to what the (professional) cocktails may contain by way of names, and distracted with mini sausages so we didn’t spy on the creation process, soon enough five drinks were delivered. Each was displayed in a different way – from teapots to flowerpots – and with varying degrees of aesthetic flair (smoking conical flask, anyone?) which made for a bar top that resembled a glorious boozy jumble sale.
Three of the most notable drinks are explained below and pictured top left.
Green Velvet Martini (£7.25)
First up I tried a strange green concoction presented in a martini glass. With a scent akin to freshly cut grass (aware that sounds mental) it was hard to pin point the alcohol used let alone the other ingredients, but it was strangely addictive; I kept going in for one more sip. Eventually we discovered the alcohol was a combination of Green Apple Liqueur and Tanqueray Gin, and the mystery moss colouring actually came from a few drops of Chlorophyll (not chloroform, kids) the green pigment responsible for helping plants absorb light. Described by the bartender as an ‘alternative to the Bloody Mary’, this was my favourite cocktail of the evening and will be something I seek out to banish a Sunday hangover soon.
Raspberry Disaronno Sour (£7.50)
The most visually striking cocktail was served in a flowerpot. Gimmicks aside, this pink, sour-tasting creation had hints of pomegranate and almond, and we guessed the cocktail included an amaretto style liqueur. A little on the sweet side for me, it wasn’t one I’d try again but I’m sure it’ll be hugely popular through summer. It comes streaming with a smoky-looking haze and bubbling, so it’s more of a dramatic statement than a cocktail, but aesthetically it’s quite impressive.
Rhubarb Gin Old Fashioned (£9.95)
This delicately fragranced rhubarb and gin cocktail provided a botanical twist to an old favourite. Seriously strong, this was a satisfying short that was big on flavour (and Portobello Road Gin) and provided an experience for all of the senses. Combining pieces of blowtorched grapefruit and crushed black pepper, I really enjoyed this fragrant drink. Interestingly, many of the others found it a bit intense, possibly because it’s not very sweet, but that’s all part of the tasting journey.
Other cocktails included a Cinnamon Oregano Old Fashion, the Pear and Kiwi Cup, and the Grapefruit and Rum Punch.
Once the tasting was complete we each popped behind the bar to create our own cocktails – you can see mine in the photo above. Reminding me a misspent summer working in a bar back in my hometown of Bewdley (ridiculous place; has a safari park but no Tesco), after an hour of sampling I was gin-confident in my ability to create something fabulous. This didn’t quite go to plan (it’s harder than it looks!) and I ended up delivering my fellow foodies a terrifying-looking but tasty herby beast of a drink. Due to its colour I crowned it the Blue Rinse (which proved to be an error as it soon turned green thanks to my overzealous use of Chlorophyll) but thankfully the others guessed the lavender and rosemary I’d muddle together with copious amounts of Hendricks gin. A sprinkle of mini red peppercorns prettied it up, and in the end my cocktail was voted second best; an achievement considering it looked like a child’s paint pot water by the time I got to drink it.
The combination of botanics, aromatics and summer colours stimulated the senses and got us all talking, making for an enjoyable event. The new cocktail additions – a cool combination of science and botany – will sit alongside the existing extensive cocktail menu. I’ve got my heart set on another Green Velvet Martini this weekend.
The Botanist, 14-16 Temple Street, Birmingham, B2 5BG
*Disclosure: I was invited to this #TrustYourSenses event by WPR and therefore the food and drink was complimentary. I was not obliged to write a review but all opinions, photos and sausage worship are my own*