Mikkeller Beer Club Discount Code

On a recent trip to Copenhagen I got to visit not one but two venues owned by Danish Beer stalwarts Mikkeller. They’ve got a few tap rooms dotted around Copenhagen, which we went to too, but we also went to the BBQ based collab with the American 3 Floyds brewery based in the meat packing district of the city called Warpigs.

I’ve tried a fair few Mikkeller beers over the years from the infamous Small Bar in Cardiff (RIP), the bottle shop in Penarth and they even sell a couple of cans at M & S.

After having a browse on their website, whilst pondering over a couple of brews to have sent over by snail mail I noticed they do a Mikkeller beer mail. This is a beer subscription where you can have a lucky dip of the latest Mikkeller beers sent to you by post once a month.

I love a suprise and I also love having beers in the house without leaving my doorstep, so I thought I was onto a winner. After finding a Mikkeller beer mail discount code online giving me 50% off my first box, I thought £20 was worth a punt.

Not knowing when delivery would be scheduled, whether it would be a month from signup or the start of the month, I was lucky in that I ordered just a week before the start of the month. A couple of days after signing up for the Mikkeller beer mail I had a notification saying my first box was been scheduled for delivery.

What was in the Mikkeller beer club box

 

Mikkeller beer club discount code

 

In the Mikkeller beer mail I had the recently launched Viking Kolsche lager with a pretty awesome branded glass for the collab.

There was a mixed bag with a few cans and bottles. There were IPA’s, a vanilla and a chocolate stout at a rather potent 12%, making a perfect dessert (or breakfast) pour. I was chuffed to have a big can of Frank The Tank too, which I got to sample over at Warpigs.

The bottle of the box though was the Spontan series Oregan Plukm. A lovely sour beer made from Plums picked from Oregan in the US. I priced this up on their website and it came in at around £14 for this alone, add that to the £8 I paid for the Frank the Tank in Warpigs and for your £20 investment, you’ve already had that back wtihout the other 7 beers and glass along with delivery all the way from Denmark.

Verdict

Would I recommend the Mikkeller Beer Mail? Too right I would if my first box is anything to go by. With the discount code getting you a 50% discount on your first box then 9 beers, a glass and delivery for £20 means you’re getting some epic beers for not much more than £2 a drink.

Mikkeller Beer Mail Discount Code

If you fancy signing up to the subscription service but not sure about the price then just use the Mikkeller beer mail discount code in the link below to get 50% off off your first delivery:

http://mikkelleraps.refr.cc/nickyb 

Note: Please note that by using the link to get a discount on the Mikkeller beer mail and Mikkeller beer club then I also get a discount on my next box too.

Gin Judging for The Peoples Drink Awards in London

After seeing catching a glimpse of newsletter tittle mentioning Gin Judging, whilst scrolling through my 300 odd emails I get every day, I clicked through to find out more.

The peoples choice drinks awards were back for a second year, and looking for judges to help crown this year’s favourite. You had to submit an application detailing why you think you would be suitable so I thought what the hell.

I forgot all about it to be honest, but a few months later I had an email inviting me to the judging at a venue in Camden in London. It was a half day affair, requiring me to taste my way through up to 30 gins with the chance to take home some surplus supplies for the hardship too. RESULT!!

As luck would have it, the judging day happened to fall on the weekend of Albert Adria’s Cake and Bubbles opening in London too and I managed to get a table.

The Judging

After arriving in Camden and finding the venue by 10.30am on a Saturday from Cardiff, I was feeling quite impressed with myself. I wasn’t alone and was joined by my partner (in crime) and fellow Cardiff Gin Club organiser to help prop me up, if I overindulged on the bountiful supply of potent aqua vitae.

 

Peoples Drink Awards in London

 

There were around 20 of us tasked with finding today’s winner of the Peoples Choice Drinks award for the gin category. I would have been the only guy had one fellow judge not brought her husband on the trip to London and was squeezed in due to a no show. Not that I was that bothered.

We were divided into about 6 tables, given scoring cards and had a run through what was expected of us. There were two rounds of the scoring, one was the gin with the taste and what we thought of the actual liquid. The second round of scoring was based on the branding, bottle and back story.

Round 1 of gin judging

After being shown how to score the gin based on taste, mouthfeel, smell, clarity and mixabilty we dived straight in. Armed with a spitting device, we were told that we didn’t need to swallow the gin and should be able to taste and score just from swilling it around the mouth. The organisers were gin judges for a number of awards and said they sometimes go through over 100 gins in a day. Ok, that might be a challenge even for me, but 30, I’m sure I’ll be fine I thought.

 

Peoples drink awards gin judging sheet

 

We weren’t served full shots anyway, just tasters of about 1/4 of a shot. Also at our disposal were bottles of tonic to open up the flavours after the initial neat taste of the liquid and plain crackers to help neutralise the taste in our mouth between gins.

The pace was fast, with the first 6 coming in quick succession. We were sat with a couple from Brighton who we got on really well with and discussed what we thought of the gin’s and what we could taste. As fast as we could taste and decide on a score for each of the scoring area’s another one or another two gin’s appeared from nowhere.

After getting to about half way through and swallowing basically everything in sight, I started to get a head on and it started to hit me. Luckily we had a short 15 minute break in between to save my legs from going underneath me when we broke for the first part. After the quick pause in the sprint through the 30 gin’s, it was back at it at full speed.

 

 

The majority of the gin’s presented to us were more than palatable, there were only a handful of less desirable and one just downright nasty that came in a rose tinted colour. I swear it wasn’t just my distaste for fake pink gin, none of the table enjoyed it.

I was quite surprised how quickly a table of 4 would smash through a packet of plain crackers too. By the last 5 we were on 3mm x 3mm crumb ration each, but we all made it to the finishing line in one piece.

Breaking for lunch after the tasting was a very good idea to help soak up the juniper laced spirit and of course I noticed the pie, mash and jellied eels old school cafe on the trek from the underground to the venue.

 

 

Full up on meat pies, mash potato and liquor, I was ready to take on the second round of judging head on. Back at the venue, I only then realised they had none other than a Tiny Rebel tap take over going on. Well i’ll be damned! You can take the boy out of Cardiff but… Pint please bar tender.

Round 2 of gin judging

Everyone was definitely a bit more chatty after the first round of scoring that’s for sure. Next we were handed 4 bottles at a time so we could look at the branding on the bottles and a blurb on each of the distilleries about their back story including who they were, how they started, unique selling point and a bit about some of the key botanicals.

Again it was a bit fast paced and we weren’t given too much time to read over the back story before swapping with other tables. We did notice that some distilleries had submitted several varieties of their gin, in hope of one of them winning.

 

Dublin City Gin

 

I was surprised having such a decent selection at home that we didn’t have more of the gin’s on show today. I had 3 of the masons gin’s but there was a new pear variety, which I was keen to try. I found flavour wise they were all quite high up on my scoring but for me on the day, my favourite gin was the Dublin City Gin.

We eventually found out that the nasty, chemical tasting and rose tinted gin was a new variety of one of our most popular Cardiff Gin Club pop up event gin’s. Bloom jasmine and rose. Uch a fi, sorry but I would not recommend that gin to anyone even if I’m not allowed to say. I cannot be held responsible for people wasting their money on that bunk.

 

Brighton Gin

 

After the scores were all handed in there was a kind of raffle going on, where one organiser would pick up a bottle of surplus gin and the other would call a name and we got to keep the bottle to take home. I could just see me coming home with that pink garbage but I was in luck. I got to take home last year’s winner, Brighton gin. Much to the dissatisfaction of my fellow table members who had travelled up from said town of the same name.

Llio also managed to bag a bottle of the sea side inspired Whitby gin and a half bottle of Shetland Reel Fire.

The Verdict

All in all, a very productive Saturday in work.  A bit longer than my normal 1.5 mile bike journey to work, but all worth it in the end. I loved the experience of judging the gin’s and it was great to be involved in helping to promote some of the very good craft gin coming onto the market at the moment. I’m not sure if the awards is going to happen again this year, but if it does then I’d recommend it to anyone. Just take an extra packet of crackers, in case you run out half way through like us.

Then it was off to taste some cakes from the a pastry chef, voted the best in the world Albert Adria at Hotel Cafe Royal, before lugging our haul of gin back to the motherland.

 

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Cardiff in the sky dinning and cocktail experience in April 2019

There’s a dinning experience coming to town in April, that is like no other Cardiff has hosted previously.

For 5 days from April 10th 2019, some of the best independent food and drink venue’s in Cardiff will be taking to the sky, offering breakfast, afternoon tea, fine dinning and cocktails on a table raised 100ft in the air.

 

 

With panoramic views out over the city to die for (don’t worry I don’t mean literally as you will be strapped in tight) you will want to be quick to bag a ticket for your chosen flight.

The dinning experience will see a table, covered from the elements should storm Gareth fancy hanging around in town for another month, raised from the ground by a crane in front City Hall.

With 9 flights per day, the event is hoped to raise a lot of cash for the charity partner Shelter Cymru. Shelter Cymru provide support and assistance for those facing homelessness, with 20,000 people being helped just last year alone.

This dinning experience has been taking the world by storm, with events being held in London, New York and Dubai and now OOMFF are bringing the show to Cardiff.

The lineup for the event is as follows:

 

Having visited 6 out of the 8 venues, I know you’re going to be well looked after. I’ve been offered a taster flight before the maiden voyage to the Cardiff skies and I can’t actually wait!

Prices start at £50, to book go to Cardiff in the Sky

 

Nikka Whisky and Gin Tasting and Cocktail Judging at Lab22 Cardiff

The Nikka brand and distillery is responsible for my recent obsession with Japanese spirits and alcohol. It was the first Japanese whisky I tried and subsequently the only whisky that isn’t Welsh in my home bar with the entry but delicious level Nikka from the Barrel.

I’m not sure whether it’s the resemblance of the brand name to my actual name or the story of the founder Masataka Taketsuru. Taketsuru, born in Hiroshima to a family of sake producers. He rebelled against already written future as a sake producer, upped sticks and traveled to Scotland, not knowing a word of English, to learn the art of distilling.

With his new found skill in distilling Scotland’s most famous export after deep fried Mars bars, he returned to Japan. With a Scottish wife in tow, he went to work for the Japanese distillery Suntory, which is still one of the most famous to this day.

After creative differences, he decided to go it alone and setup his own distillery Nikka. You probably wouldn’t have guessed, but certain areas of Japan closely resemble the climate, humidity and altitude famed by the Scottish distilleries. These sorts of variables can have a huge impact to the final product and it’s taste.

Nikka Distillery has now been producing highly awarded as sought after Japanese Whisky from their distilleries all around Japan, using a variety of different techniques from pot stills, multi column Coffey Stills and they even still use coal fired stills on some of the batches.

Not only whisky, but Nikka have also more recently added white spirits to their arsenal in the form of gin and vodka. Using the Coffey still (not coffee) to produce the neutral grain spirit of vodka. They then use this base spirit, which is distilled with Japanese botanicals to create a spicy, citrus forward gin with the help of yuzu, amanatsu, kabosu, shikuwasa and the sansho pepper, which is a member of the sizchuan pepper.

They call this Nikka Coffey Gin. I’ve got a bottle of this in the house too, and it’s bloody lush!

Nikka Whisky, Gin and Vodka Tasting at Lab22

Luckily for me, Lab 22, one of my favourite Cardiff bars and the one where i’ve tried most of the Japanese whiskys I’ve sampled in my time, were having an industry tasting day with Nikka brand ambassador one afternoon recently. That was more than enough reason to book the afternoon off work for in my eyes.

We got to learn about the history of Nikka, the story of Masataka Taketsuru and how he grew his company over 50 years ago to be one of the most recognised Japanese Whisky brands on the planet.

Nikka Japanese whisky tasting in Cardiff

Then onto the most important part, tasting our way around the collection of Nikka spirits from blended, single cask, aged whisky to the recent coffey additions such as Nikka Coffey grain whisky, Malt whisky, Gin and Vodka.

I’d sampled a few drinks form the Nikka range lately, but there’s bloody loads of them, so I was more than happy to work my way through more of the back catalogue.

My favourite from the 8 varities we tried was between the Nikka Single malt Miyagikyo and the Taketsuru pure malt.

There weren’t any of the aged expresions, but I’m not suprised as the Japanese whisky drought that’s going on has sent them skyrocketing in price. I did manage to try the Nikka Taketsuru 17 year old recently at Pennyroyal mind. This is probably the last time as that is currently at £200 a bottle, so god knows how much the 21 year old is, and that’s bottle price so for a shot you’re looking £20+ no doubt.

Judging the Nikka cocktail competition

Nikka whisky and gin cocktail judging

Lab knows my love for Japanese Whisky and Gin, so asked me to judge for the Nikka cocktail comp after the tasting event. How could i refuse?

There were two heats to the comp with Japanese bar tendering skills in the form of hand carved ice to a stopwatch where they had a minute to carve a block of ice into a sphere to fit into a whisky tumbler.

Second heat was all about the drinks. Each bartender had to create a cocktail with at least 50ml of any of the Nikka products we sampled during the day, whether that was Nikka Whisky, Gin or Vodka. Scoring was based on taste, appearance and story.

Nikka whisky cocktail entry at lab22 Cardiff

I’ll be honest, I wish this was my full time paid job as I was in my oils. Luckily there was no need for any bandages in the first heat from rogue stabs of the ice with the ice pick but we had a right good laugh at the effort the guys put in on the first round.

For the cocktails, nearly every entrant used Nikka Whisky from Nikka from the barrel to Yoichi and Taketsuru Pure Malt. With only Alex, mixologist and owner of Penny Royal opting for a mix of Nikka Whisky and Gin in his cocktail.

There were some mesmerising back stories and props thrown into the performances from some and some damn fine cocktails to match, but there could only be one winner. That happened to be Alex who went for a mix of the Nikka gin and whisky, with a short and punchy number with added Japanese ice ball to add a little bit more flair to the drink.

Nikka gin cocktail winner

Alex walked away with an enviable bottle of something a bit special from Nikka and sadly wasn’t open to requests to share it with me. Oh well.

A big thanks to Lab22 for letting me join in the tasting and cocktail judging and a big thanks to Nathan from Nikka for giving me the low down on the history of the distillery, which I always find fascinating.

Mulled Negroni Recipe – Christmas Cocktail Ideas

I usually knock up a batch of mulled wine or cider for Christmas dinner every year but I fancied trying something different this year.

Seeing that I’ve got a bit of a soft spot for gin, I thought I’d try mulling some of the juniper based spirit. As gin usually comes with tonic, which isn’t exactly Christmassy on it’s own I decided to go with a twist on one of gin’s most famous classic cocktails, the Negroni.

Negroni is usually equal measures of gin, sweet vermouth, which is a a fortified red wine with added botanicals and herbs and Campari, a bitter orange Italian aperitif.

To me that’s basically a grown up mulled wine in the making and what I think would make the perfect Christmas cocktail. You could have this with dinner for the main event or for a welcome drink that could be knocked up in a batch, in a slow cooker and given to guests when they arrive.

I’ve gone for a couple of alternative mulling spices below, but you can work with what you’ve got for your mulled Negroni if you don’t have the ones below, or don’t like them.

Mulled negroni recipe ingredients

Mulled Negroni Recipe

  • 4 cardamom pods
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 clementine, leaves and all
  • 1 bottle of Fentimans ginger ale
  • 50ml gin (I used Edinburgh)
  • 50ml Campari
  • 50ml Sweet vermouth
  • 1 tonka bean
  • 5 cloves
  • Squeeze of honey to taste
  • Squeeze of clementine juice

 

Mulled negroni making

Instructions

  1. Add the cloves, cardamom, cinnamon and half the rind of a small clementine to a hot dry pan and toast for a few minutes to get a bit of a char and to start releasing some of the flavours.
  2. Turn the heat down to a low-medium heat than add the rest of the ingredients and 3 slices of the clementine.
  3. Warm in the pan slowly to get the flavours to impart but without burning off the alcohol.
  4. Put a tea strainer over a clear glass cup and pour half of the liquid in each of the cups. Garnish with a slice of clementine and stick of cinnamon from the pan.

You could leave to cool and serve with a wedge of ice, but it’s winter and there’s nothing better than a nice warm, boozy cup.

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Head of Steam Review in Cardiff

With the almost monthly opening of new cocktail bars on High Street Cardiff, it was a welcome addition to have the Head of Steam bar opening up next door to Beelzebubs on Church street this week.

There’s lots of change going on down that neck of the woods in the city centre, with a lot more planned with the redevelopment of the old pound stretchers and the adjoining vacant buildings on Church street too.

Head of Steam has taken over from the recently vacated Harvester restaurant and will be the companies 16th venue in the UK. I was asked to pop along to the soft launch last night to sample some of the 150+ beers and food on offer.

The Venue

I’ve passed the venue twice a day on the way to work since they’ve been giving the place an overhaul. The bar now covers two floors, instead of just the ground floor that Harvester was limited to.

 

 

The ground floor features a central bar with a mixture of movable tables and chairs and also booths to choose from. Large flat screen TV’s nestled around the wall’s rotate through the endless list of beers available.

Upstairs is reserved for mainly food, with no bar and table service. Theme throughout the venue is meandering towards the locomotive industry, hence the brand name “Head of Steam”. There’s references throughout to local railway trivia, but not too in your face.

The Drinks

Beers

As mentioned there’s over 150 beers available on draught, bottles and cans. You’ve got your standard pub offerings for those who aren’t too fussy about craft. There’s a couple of local beers from Cardiff favourites Pipes Brewery, then there’s Magic Rock and Beavertown, which I had the 6.7% Lupoloid that was very tasty.

 

 

They have a heavy focus on Belgian beers too, which is something i’m not too well versed with, so that should be something new to work through too for me.

Gin

I was quite impressed with their gin collection too. I counted 45+ that were in plain sight. Some of the regulars you would find in most bars like your Whitley Neil and Bathtub, then a fav of mine Scapegrace at the more premium end. There were a few new one’s I hadn’t tried too such as the Manchester Gin.

 

Gin selection at Head of Steam Cardiff

Whisky

Around the other side of the bar were the darker spirits like rum and whisky. A few firm Scottish favourites such a Ardbeg and to my delight a few Japanese ones too from Nikka and Suntory. I’ve tried quite a few of the Nikka range so I’m trying to work my way through the Suntory. They had the new Hibiki blended Harmony, which I haven’t tried since the aged 12 and 17 year expressions have dried up. I opted for the Suntory Yamakazi this time though, as i’ve seen it about, but not tried it before.

 

Yamazaki 12 year old Japanese Whisky at Head of Steam Cardiff

Cider

I think their selection of cider was the weakest link in the chain to be honest. The only true apple cider they had was on tap and that was Symonds but the rest were all fruit varieties, which I find way too sweet. They had Rekordelig on tap, a cola cider, which I did have a taster of but found it just tasted like cola and not much in the way of cider. I’d have struggled with more than a half. They you had some bottled fruit options such as rhubarb, mango and a strawberry one at around 4% so you can take a guess as to how sweet they were.

There’s plenty of good cider makers around in South Wales, so I’d recommend having at least one alternative to Symonds considering they have such a vast selection of beers but the rest of the ciders, I’d class as alcopops due to the lower abv and gut rot sweetness. Beezlebubs next door have around 6 draught ciders including Llantwit Fardre’s Gwynt y Ddraig.

The Food

The food menu is split into two, with around 14 starters or tapas options either priced individually or 3 for £12, with the option to upgrade to a tasting flight with 3 x 1/3 beers for £15, which I thought was a nice touch.

 

Sharing food plates at Head of Steam Cardiff

 

We opted to go for 6 of the tapas options between the 3 of us with a side of fries too. Not knowing what the portion size was going to be like, we had all intentions of having a main after it but we had eyes bigger than our bellies. I think if there had been 4 of us to share the plates as in one set of 3 for each, that sounded more doable.

We opted for:

  • Red pepper hummus with garlic corriander naan
  • King prawn tortilla
  • Sweet paprika chorizos in honey glaze
  • Japanese inspired squid with salt and pepper coating and teriyaki dip
  • Hot and spicy wings with chiptole mayo

We did ask for deep fried whitebait but got a second helping of the squid, sweet potato fries and go these plus standard fries and both flavours of the wings so there was a little mix up with the order. It was the opening night / soft launch and we were invited there for complimentary food so I wasn’t going to kick up a fuss.

I thought the food was of decent quality and there was nothing that arrived that I didn’t enjoy. The small plates are just £4 each so i’m not expecting michelin star quality here but what you do get was lovely. Proper beer food and I liked that they suggested a paired beer with each plate or for those opting for the beer flight with it just as I did.

The problem was, we had about 8 plates and 6 beers, so I didn’t have a clue what I was supposed to be drinking with what. It was only a suggestion though and I just had a taste of everything with everything. I loved the mini chorizo sausages in the honey glaze though, they were lush and the cherry beer that came with the flight.

 

Nachos at Head of Steam Cardiff

 

Having had an extra few dishes by surprise, main courses were off the question. We did decide to have a sharing plate of the pulled salt beef nachos for the table to pick on though. The tortillas were pilled high, with a lovely rich and smokey beef topping with melted cheese. The dips came in a big bowl rather than making the chips soggy, which was a nice change. No complaints for the nachos, and again, perfect beer food.

If we had gone for mains, there were choices of beef and coconut curry, sirloin steak and chips, Moroccan Harrisa salmon, pie and mash, a decent selection of mammoth sounding burgers or hotdogs. Price wise, i thought these were reasonable too, with mains around the £11 mark apart from the steak, which will set you back £16.95.

 

Sharing desserts at Head of Steam Cardiff

 

We went for a sharing board of 3 desserts to finish up, which consisted of chocolate brownie and ice cream, sticky toffee pudding and waffles with berries and ice cream. At £10 for all three, I thought they were a bargain.

The Verdict

They aren’t trying to be something they are not, in terms of food and offer good, hearty food for a very reasonable price. With starters or tapas at 3 for £12, mains around £11 and £3.33 for a dessert if you went for all 3.

There’s a lack of places in town for a reasonably priced, good bit of grub with some decent beers to go with them. I can definitely see myself coming back, especially as they are dog friendly too. This is downstairs only mind and they have a couple of chairs and tables outside, so I’d probably park myself outside with the mutt, with a beer and couple of small plates on our rounds around town on the weekend.

A Christmas Gin Gift List

I thought I’d make a gin hit list for anyone looking for the best gin to buy for Christmas this year, whether you’re looking to purchase some new and exciting gin for your home bar or for a gin lover in your life, they would make the ideal gift this year.

My Christmas gin list includes gin’s I’ve got at home, some I’ve tried and loved on my travels and ones that I need in my life, like right now!

There’s gin’s close to home in the UK,more exotic ones like the Persian peach and from around the world including my favourite Japanese distillery Nikka, Scapegrace Gold from New Zealand, gin spiked or aged in with wine and barrels from Four Pillars.

That Boutiquey- Gin Company also do the craziest concoctions out there too. I’ve even got to bottle a blend of my own recently with them too at The Dead Canary in Cardiff.

The gin list will be growing as and when I find new epic gins that are worthy of the gin hit list, so if none of them take your fancy now, pop back in a little while to find some more.

I’ve not only added gin though, I’ve got a few items I have in my home bar for making some classic gin cocktails such as bitters and vermouths for Martini’s, Maraschino for Aviation’s and Chartreuse for The Last Word cocktail. Oh and a few recommendations such as the large ice mould’s that come in handy for Negroni’s and Old Fashioned’s (although not gin, but bloody good none the less)

Take a look at my ultimate gin gift list for Christmas. (Please note that gin is for life and not just for Christmas, unless you’ve drunk it all, in that case you will need another form the attached list)

Take a look at my ultimate Christmas Gin Gift List

 

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The Alchemist Cardiff Restaurant and Bar Review

I went to the launch night of the much anticipated Alchemist a few months back, and i’ve been back since then for a cocktail or three. This time I thought i’d concentrate on what the molecular themed bar has to offer in the kitchen.

We were invited along to try lunch there a few weeks back, so we chose a Saturday afternoon to allow us the chance to tick a few more cocktails off the menu whilst we were there, without having to stumble back to work after.

We happened to sample some bite sized portions of some of the menu items at the launch, but there was far too much alcohol consumed to remember exactly what passed my lips that evening. This time I was back for a full portion and more.

The Food

Having just clocking off on the 3.5 hour Loving Welsh Food Tour 5 minutes ago, I had to dig deep into that special place in order to power through another three courses. For some this may be unreachable, but for me it’s second nature.

I opted for the duck gyoza to start. Llio was going for a salad for mains, so ordered two starters. Asian steamed pork buns with hoisin and a side of halloumi sticks.

The gyoza were soft and silky, filled with a fragrant mix of veg and shredded duck. A sweet, sticky dip added a burst of citrus. The steamed buns were decent in size, soft pillowy mounds, stuffed with soft pork. I drizzled the sweet, hoisin sauce for a tangy bit of moisture.

The halloumi sticks were fried in a layer of crispy, golden breadcrumbs, paired with a pot of mellow chilli mayo.

Not a bad start from all three dishes so far.

For mains I opted for a seared tuna, because I can’t remember the last time I ate fresh tuna. I opted for it pink in the middle and boy did they deliver on that front. Nothing worse than a sorry, dry and grey slab of tuna when it’s fresh.

tuna and rice cake - The Alchemist Cardiff

I’m not normally one to go for something with sweet chilli sauce, as I thought everyone had rode that wave to death a long time ago. I would of preferred something other that sweet chilli, that offered a fiery kick of freshness to add to the beautifully pink tuna but the dish sounded good apart from that. I loved the toasted slab of sticky rice that contrasted between spongy with a crisp outer layer, with ribbons of herbs layered through it.

I’m not sure what state the micro herb salad was in, when it went on the plate but it was a bit miserable by the time it touched our tables. It could of wilted in the heat of the kitchen or surrounding items on the plate, but the plate wouldn’t of missed it if it wasn’t there. The tuna was delicious though and made up for it.

crispy kale side - The Alchemist

I love a bit of crispy kale and often do them in the house to add to asian dishes for a seaweed like crunch so I went for a side of crispy kale with the main. This paired with the tuna really well with little crispy shards of garlic scattered amongst the leafy crisps.

The other half went for a Caesar Salad. More food her there.

caesar salad - The Alchemist Cardiff

After a bit of a breather to sample another drink after the mains, we decided on what sweets to order. I went for a white chocolate and rum mouse with coconut, rum, mango and lime salsa.

This was probably my least favourite dish of the meal. Not that I didn’t like it, it was just a bit boring. I couldn’t taste any rum what so over, but this might of been in part compared to the other desert, which was very potent in the alcohol department. I just thought the dish was a bit bland compared to the other dishes we had.

caesar salad - The Alchemist Cardiff

The other dessert was the cotton candy baked alaska. I’m not a fan of candy floss in cocktails as I think it’s a bit wanky to be honest so i was a bit apprehensive. I do like a baked Alaska mind, so we bit the bullet.

The mini mountain comes out with a mound of candy floss on, which I imediately though “Oh god, here we go” but they heated a little pan of spirit up, which was flambed and drizzled over the dish turning it a molten, sugar inferno. The candy floss didn’t last long and just shriveled into little pebbles of sugar luckily.

I saw the table opposite let her’s burn for a little too long before us and ended up a bit more singed that I would of hoped for so I blew out the flames just as the top of the Alaska started to turn golden in colour.

This was a much better dish that the mouse with it’s crunchy nuggets of warm sugar in a boozy syrup that I spooned with each mouthful of Alaska.

The Drinks

I’ve had a couple of cocktails here by now and tend to stay up towards the last block of boozy numbers that aren’t drenched in sugary syrups. Some of the tweaked classics like the white negroni, which was a lovely change and the old fashioned.

I was a bit disappointed with my last visit as I tried to order three drinks from the more potent, short and strong section but they didn’t have all the ingredients to make them. It was a Thursday, so I let them off. I was a bit peeved when the same thing happened with another couple of drinks this time considering it was a Saturday, you would think they would be fully stocked for t he menu.

cocktail at The Alchemist Cardiff

First up this time was the Penicillin drink, that came in a mini medicine bottle that i decanted over a large spherical ice cube. This was a bit more like some of the drinks I would order in Lab or Pennyroyal in terms of strength and lack of over the top sugary syrups.

My second drink, after not having the ingredients to my first option was a smokey number that came out in a round science lab beaker, on a tripod and was smoked in front of me. Having had my fair share of smoked old fashioned’s in my time, the drink would normally have been smoked in the glass, with a healthy chunk of ice to keep it cool.

smoked cocktail at the alchemist cardiff

This was smoked in the beaker and left on the tripod to sip at my leisure. The problem being the round beaker wasn’t the safest in the tripod and I just about managed to save it spilling several times. The other issue was the drink therefore couldn’t be chilled with ice, and i was left to sip the warm, smoked liquid like a 15 year old working his way through the ethanol in GCSE science.

I don’t care much for what glass the drink is in, well I do it should fit the drink. But I think the drinks tend to be a bit gimmicy here, whilst hindering on quality and taste. If you want to smoke it, fine. Just smoke it in a rocks or old fashioned glass with ice or a coupe as long as it’s been stirred the shit out of with ice. Just don’t give me a warm drink that I’m scared will plunge to the floor every time i put it down.

The Verdict

I was pleased with our starters, which were both flavoursome and decent in size. I really enjoyed the tuna and the rice cake, especially scattered with my side of crispy kale. I would of preferred something a bit less old school than sweet chilli, maybe a soy, gochujang or miso glaze but the rest of the dish was spot on.

Desserts were hit and miss. I enjoyed the boozy baked Alaska but the white chocolate and rum mouse was missing the main ingredient…rum.

I’ve had some decent cocktails here, don’t get me wrong but I don’t think the flavour and quality should be neglected just because you want to add a bit of dry ice for some theatrics or a bunsen burner and shitty round glasses that don’t sit in their tripod.

The staff are all really friendly and I like that they ask you before you even look at the menu if you have any allergies, so they can offer you a customised menu. That way you aren’t left disappointed, when you go through the menu ordering only to be told they contain something you’re intolerant or allergic to.

I’d probably have food here again, and it is a nice looking venue. There’s not much else like it in the centre of town, where you can get a decent cocktail (if they’ve pulled their finger out with the ingredients) and some good food that’s central.

It seems to be really busy in there every time i walk passed and every time i’ve been in there, which is unusual for Cardiff as most places are quiet apart from Saturday. If you are going for lunch on Saturday, I would recommend booking in advance as they turned loads of people away when we were waiting for the to clear our table.

Contact Details

117 St Mary Street
Cardiff
CF10 1DY

Web: thealchemist.uk.com
Tel: 02921 303755

Classic Cocktail Recipes & Bastardised Classics

If you’re looking for some inspiration for some classic cocktails or my spin on classic gin and whisky cocktails then these few cocktails might be right up your street.

I’m mostly found drinking gin when out in bars in the evening but I’m a sucker for a Japanese whisky, especially the Nikka Whisky range. Luckily for me they’ve recently branched out into the juniper spirit world too.

I’m by no means a professional mixologist but I do like to experiment not only in the kitchen but with my ever growing collection of spirits at home.

The Last Word Cocktail

Classic Last Word Cocktail

  • 50ml gin
  • 25ml Green Chartreuse
  • 25ml Maraschino Liquer
  • 25ml fresh lime juice

Instructions

Add all the ingredients to a mixing glass with ice. Stir with a bar spoon for around 15-20 seconds to both dilute and cool the mix. Strain into a chilled coupe glass and serve.

Last Samurai Cocktail

Last Samurai cocktail

  • 50ml Nikka Coffey Gin
  • 25ml Green Chartruese
  • 25ml Maraschino Liquer
  • 12ml lime juice
  • 12ml yuzu juice

Instructions

This is a play on the Last word cocktail above but with a Japanese twist using Nikka Coffey Gin with it’s Japanese inspired botanicals and subbing half the lime juice with Yuzu, a Japanese citrus fruit.

Add all the ingredients to a mixing glass with ice. Stir with a bar spoon for around 15-20 seconds to both dilute and cool the mix. Strain into a chilled coupe glass and serve.

Aviation Cocktail

  • 50ml gin
  • 12ml Crème de Violette
  • 12ml Maraschino Liquer
  • 25ml fresh lemon juice
  • 1 Luxardo maraschino cherry to garnish

Instructions

Add all the ingredients to a mixing glass with ice. Stir with a bar spoon for around 15-20 seconds to both dilute and cool the mix.

Add a Luxardo maraschino cherry and a little of the syrup into a chilled couple glass. Strain the cooled mixture into the couple glass and serve.

Chocolate, Hazelnut and Tonka Bean Old Fashioned Cocktail

Nikka whisky cocao tonka bean hazlenut old fashioned cocktail

 

  • 50ml Cocao butter fat washed Nikka From The Barrel Whisky
  • 10ml Tonka Bean and Hazlenut Syrup
  • 3 dashes umeboshi

Instructions

Add the Nkka, Tonka Bean Syrup and umeboshi to a mixing glass with ice. Stir with a bar spoon for around 15-20 seconds to both dilute and cool the mix.

Strain into a cut glass old fashioned or rocks glass with a block of ice and serve.

How to make the components of the cocktail

  1. To make the Cacao butter fat washed Nikka you will need to melt cacao butter in a bowl over hot water and pour the liquid butter into a container with the whisky. Depending on how much you want to make depends on how much cacao butter to use.
  2. I made 50ml of whisky to test and used a chunk about the size of my thumb. Make sure the container is to seal as you want to shake it to mix the fat in with the whisky.
  3. I left out to make sure it cooled for a few hours, then put it in the fridge overnight. I then placed the whisky in the freezer for an hour or two so the fat hardens. It has probably solidified already but we want to make sure it is solid so we can scoop it out easily.
  4. When you’re ready to roll, take the container out of the freezer and use a spoon to scoop out the cocao butter. Mine resembled a mini poppadum and was in two large pieces so was easy to fish out. Then take a fine sieve and pour the whisky into whatever container you want to store it in so it could be the empty whisky bottle but using the sieve to catch any small remnants of the cocao butter.
  5. The longer you leave the butter in the whisky the more pronounced the flavour. You don’t want to overpower the drink so play around with the timings. Mine was about 24 hours but you could do it less for a more subtle taste or depending how much cacao butter you use.
  6. To make the tonka bean and hazelnut syrup you want to smash up a few hazlenuts and dry roast in a pan to toast them and give them a more smoky flavour. Depending on how much you want to make up the measurements but I went for a test batch and used about 5 or 6 nuts with equal amounts of water and sugar. For this small batch I used 75ml of water and 75ml of sugar.
  7. Once the hazlenuts have toasted but make sure they don’t burn, add the sugar and water and turn it up to a boil. Cook for another minute once it’s boiling and take off the heat. I then added 1 tonka bean, which I snapped into 4 pieces.
  8. Bare in mind that in high does tonka beans, much like nutmeg can become toxic so don’t overdo it but some sources have said it could take around 20+ tonka beans for a person to cause damage. It’s for this reason tonka beans are banned in the US but this is from many years before too much research had been done to say they are toxic but in high quantities.
  9. Leave the mixture to cool for a few hours and to develop. Once you are happy with the concentration of flavours, decant the mixture into a clean container or bottle using a fine mesh sieve again to remove any residue that could cause it to spoil.

The best places in Cardiff for a Gin and Tonic

Being the gin whore I am, I’ve pretty much tried most places in Cardiff over the past two years for a juniper based beverage. With so many craft gins on the market and new ones being released each week it’s hard to keep up but the list below will stand you in good stead to sample a whole range of gins from around the world.

There’s quite a few selling local Welsh Gin’s such as Eccentric, Dyfi, Da Mhile and Gower, with is very nice to see. Also something I’m a bit obsessed with these days is all things Japanese and and the Japanese gin’s if you haven’t tried them yet are bloody lovely!

Take a look at my top picks of where to go for a decent Gin and tonic in Cardiff below.

Pennyroyal

High Street, Cardiff

genever at Pennyroyal

 

A very good selection of craft gins including my fav Nikka Coffey, Welsh Gins such as award winning Dyfi Gin and one of the only places I’ve seen Gin’s older brother, Genever served in Cardiff. They also do shit hot cocktails and the Classic Club between 5-7pm Wednesday to Friday is a game changer.

Want something off menu? Tell Alex, Jay or Sam what you like and they will rustle something glorious up for you.

Lab22

Caroline Street, Cardiff

gin martinin at lab22 cardiff

 

This is probably where I fell in love with cocktails and all things gin in Cardiff way back when. I’ve tried many a new gin on the market here and learned a thing or two from mixologist extraordinaire Alex whilst sat at the bar interrogating him.

Their molecular mixology inspired menu looks something out of a nutty professor handbook with acids and potions I’ve never even heard of before featuring in the majority of drinks.

 

Cardiff Gin Club

Anywhere and everywhere

Cardiff Gin Club pop up gin tasting at Hawkes Bespoke Cardiff

 

Cardiff’s very own travelling Craft Gin Bar and quirky gin event pop up with over 60 gins in their arsenal. Tired of the same old boring gin tasting from gin’s that have been on the market for 20+ years?

Sign up at Cardiff Gin Club or give them a follow on socials to find out when and where their next event is taking place. Whether it’s sipping botanically infused water whilst doing yoga or zipping over the Bristol channel in a speedboat for a tipple on a former pirate and smugglers loving island they’ve got it covered.

 

Dead Canary

Barack Lane, Cardiff

East India Company Gin at The Dead Canary Cardiff

 

Cardiff’s original speakeasy, nestled inconspicuously off Barack Lane just behind St Davids 2. Bookings are usually a must but give the doorbell with a ring next to the gold feather on the wall and you might be lucky.

I’ve mainly gone here for cocktails with the new menu themed on Welsh Folklore but they’ve got a pretty impressive back bar of gin and whisky if you want to venture of piste later on in the evening.

 

Park Plaza

Greyfriars Road, Cardiff

park plaza gin tasting main

 

The only hotel on the list but this place has something for everyone. Not the biggest selection of gin to be found in the city but it was here I first tried a couple of gins they have on the menu at the new gin menu launch I was invited too back last year. The Caorun with apple was my fav for a little while too.

Did I mention they do a gin afternoon tea too? Well they do, and you should try it if you haven’t. This might not be the biggest seller coming up to summer but the lobby room in the hotel, slouched in a leather chair with a roaring fire, glass in hand and nibbling on a cheese board whilst it’s snowing outside was my favourite thing to do this winter.

 

Bar 44

Westgate Street, Cardiff

Cardiff’s most popular tapas bar don’t just know their food. Us Brit’s have borrowed the now staple Copa da Ballon glass from our Spanish friends and Bar 44 definitely know how to present them with full to the brim with ice, my favourite Spanish Gin Nordes a Gallician white grape gin then expertly paired with garnish and tonic.

Excellent food meat’s excellent gin. Oh and they don’t half know a bit about Sherry if you fancy one in between. Owner Owen, being a subject expert and recently crowned IMBIBE personality of the year at the prestigious London event they take their drinks just as serious as their food.

 

Small Bar

Church Street, Cardiff

zymurgorium gin at Small Bar Cardiff

 

My favourite pub in Cardiff hands down and mostly known for their delightful array of craft beers, sours, ciders and porters and more recently the Kerala Karavan takeover in the kitchen. If you cast your eyes behind the pumps behind the bar you will see some mighty fine examples of gin, found nowhere else in Cardiff.

Heavily beer influenced with some examples such as the Wild Beer Snoodlepip and Northern Monk Brewing Zymurgorium Gin and their own collaboration with Bristol gin ninjas Psychopomp.

 

Pitch

Mill Lane, Cardiff

With outdoor seating and set over two floors on Mill Lane, Pitch is bigger than it first looks outside. Recently refurbished with quirky, mind bending painting frames on the ceiling this tardis esque venue has an envious cocktail menu and tempting gin collection.

Fancy an afternoon gin teapot sat in the Sun? Look no further.

 

Curado

Guildhall Place, Cardiff

Gin and yuzu tonic at Curado Bar Cardiff

 

My other favourite tapas venue in town and somewhere you can just nip in for a drink without worrying about having to have food (not that I’ve ever been strong enough to fight off the urge) is Curado.

A great wine selection but they only sell Spanish Gin and most other than my fav Nordes I’ve never seen anywhere else in Cardiff. Santamania is their go to Gin with one being a collaboration with my Ozzie fav Four Pillars Gin. Oh and you just have to have yours with QYuzu tonic because Yuzu in anything is the bomb!

 

Potted Pig

High Street, Cardiff

Not only do the guys at Potted Pig do shit hot food, for a long time they had the biggest selection of Gin in Cardiff too.

Not exactly somewhere you can just go for a drink but something to bear in mind if you want to end a good meal with something wet and tasty.

 

Ten Mill Lane

Mill Lane, Cardiff

scapegrace gin cocktail at ten mill lane Cardiff

 

More of a late night venue, this basement bar comes to live after midnight. Most customers have probably been well oiled by the time they get here but they recently won the Scapegrace Gin Trail in Cardiff I recently tagged along in with their crazy out of the box gin concoction that blew us judges away.

A good gin selection and a very reasonably priced cocktail menu will see you through till lights on at 6am.

 

Peppermint

Mill Lane, Cardiff

Peppermint is a place you can go for an afternoon drink sat in the sun on Mill lane or for a knees up and boogie till late. Set over two floors with an outside seating area and food menu, you can be entertained for hours.

With a good selection of gin favourites on display and a tempting cocktail list this should definitely be on your list of venues to stop by on your gin tour of Cardiff.

 

Bootlegger

Womamby Street, Cardiff

ki no bi Japanese Gin at Bootlegger Cardiff

 

This prohibition themed bar might be easy to miss walking through Womamby Street but make sure you pop in to the 1st floor venue the next time you’re in the area. With an ever increasing selection of juniper based spirits, twisted classic cocktail menu and live jazz performances on the weekend it’s a nice addition to the music loving street. #VIVALAWOMAMBY

 

Gin and Juice

High Street, Cardiff

This spin off ginspired venue is from the coffee and tea house jugernaught that is Barkers. Formerly known for kitting out South Wales in denim and check shirts for 30 years, they’ve now basically taken over half of Castle Arcade with the addition of Gin and Juice next door to Coffee Barker.

With close to 200 gins from your household names to more niche and rare bottles there’s something for everyone. Those cut glass drinking vessels look the part too. I’ve heard they do a pretty healthy breakfast too if you fancy pairing it with your citrus spiked gin of choice.

 

Cathedral 73

Cathedral Road, Cardiff

Off the beaten track and one to think about if looking for somewhere to hydrate on a trek from Pontcanna to town. I attended the launch of the new food menu and management of the venue back towards the end of 2017 and was rather impressed with the collection of gin behind the bar.

With 30+ at the time including local Eccentric Gin they told me they were hoping to increase this to 73 in homage to the street number at which they reside. If you’re looking to make the most of the evening, I was bowled over by the quality of the rooms and accommodation there too especially the two story fully kitted out kitchen apartment.