Monday 30 October 2017

Bluebird Tea Co. - New Nottingham Store!

As a bartender, I have the opportunity to attend many spirit and industry training sessions, learning more about each category and the specific history and method behind each brand. Last Wednesday, I got to do something different: a tea tasting!

Pictured below is the new (to Nottingham) boutique tea store: Bluebird Tea Co. Started up by Mike and Krisi when they were students in this city, they grew their brand and now have several stores across the country with the latest addition being this one in Nottingham - where it all began.

Bluebird isn't like other tea shops, they specialise in 'tea mixology' to create blends of tea suitable for everyone's tastes - even those who are caffeine free (more on that later). I was invited to an industry opening, where we could sample and learn about tea, and boy did I learn! All the staff were super knowledgeable and you could tell the passion for the product and the brand had translated down through from Mike and Krisi to the whole team.

*Image from Nottingham Post, credit to Angela Ward

Grace and the full range of tea blends
We were welcomed with tea cocktails (seen below), followed by lots of samples, demonstrations, and plenty of chit chat about tea. Here are some things I learnt:

  • White tea exists!
  • White and green tea leaves are easily burnt, the easiest way to avoid this is to add a splash of cold water to your cup before adding water from the kettle. *Bonus tip from me, don't "boil" your kettle until it switches off - as soon as you can here it simmering, your water is hot enough to brew and you save energy/electricity too!
  • Matcha green tea has more caffeine than coffee, but has a slower energy release (so a bit like having porridge for breakfast instead of sugary cereal).
  • There are special bamboo whisks for making matcha tea, which help fully dissolve the powder.
  • Rooibos tea is from a different plant, and technically doesn't contain caffeine (although it does contain a similar stimulant). This means that you can brew it for longer than other types of tea without worry of over-brewing.
  • Raspberry leaves - found in a few of their blends; such as Blue Raspberry and Enchanted Narnia - are great for aiding digestion, and easing stomach cramps.

An earl grey cocktail, and instagram cards with full recipes/instructions on the back!
Ellie brewing up a cup of Enchanted Narnia, which was as magical as it sounds
The store itself was both modern and cosy, with books about tea around for those who wish to sit in to read. Bluebird will be running blending workshops in the near future, with spaces filling up fast! Click here to book yourself a place.

 And finally, onto the purpose of my visit. I now have a fantastic collection of tea blends to play with, and incorporate into my own mixology. Watch this space for more tea cocktails! At the moment I'm brainstorming something for a tea based alternative to Irish Coffee...

Friday 11 March 2016

Flashback Friday: Boozy Nail Art

Short and sweet post today - I literally just wanted to share a few pictures of the cocktail related nail art I have done recently, either 'for luck' ahead of competitions, or just for the fun of it! Enjoy...

Friday 4 March 2016

Flashback Friday: London Cocktail Week 2015

Flashback to London Cocktail Week in October last year. Flashback to the time I learnt how to carve an ice ball. Flashback to learning more about succeeding in cocktail competitions from Josh Reynolds. Flashback to Monin blind tasting of syrups, and discovering the subtle differences between regular chocolate and chocolate cookie flavour. Flashback to long talks about gin, and almost missing the next seminar. Flashback to trying many different cocktails and new spirits. Flashback to brunch, pancakes and a catch up with a friend who'd recently moved to London.

Flashback to Icelandic beer, and a new found love for wheat beer in general. Flashback to a candlelit Boulevardier making session. Flashback to shots of Angostura orange bitters. Flashback to plenty more Angostura rum cocktails. Flashback to plenty more cocktails generally. Flashback to getting in a bathtub full of ducks. Flashback to bathtub gin. Flashback to a fantastic day balancing education with fun.

Wednesday 2 March 2016

Competition Highlights August 2015 - February 2016

At this rate it seems I'll only be writing a blog post about twice a year; every time something interesting happens in my world of bartending I always feel like I leave too much time before posting. Fortunately now I think I have a plan for how to get posts up even though I feel it's 'too late', in the form of 'Flashback Friday's (throwback thursday was already taken) hopefully the first will be up later this week!

I'd also like to try and write about things that aren't competitions, but for now that seemed the easiest way to get back into the swing of things. Here are some notable cocktails I have entered in competitions over the last 7 months.

August 2015

'Sorrel Seems to be the Hardest Word'*:

El Dorado 5 year rum, blood orange syrup, and homemade Jamaican Sorrel.

My second El Dorado competition except without the Coco Lopez or the tiki vibes this time, but that didn't stop me having fun with the presentation! I struck inspiration from the prize being a visit to the Kaieteur Falls in Guyana.

The judges loved the sharer concept, but unfortunately my balance of sweetness was off.

I also got the opportunity to try the more 'top shelf' expressions of El Dorado that day including one of my new favourites: El Dorado 15 year.

September 2015

'Tennessee Fflip'

Jack Daniels tennessee whiskey, fresh blueberry puree, whole egg, lemon, Dead Rabbit orinoco bitters. Served with welsh cakes.

This was a mini competition after a Jack Daniels training session at Rub Birmingham (part of the same company I currently work for). I took inspiration from the welsh side of my family, and took home 1st place.

October 2015

'Licorice Martini'

Reyka vodka, licorice infused vermouth, chocolate bitters.

The smallest comp I think I have ever entered, with only three of us (guaranteed placing anyone?) and also my third Reyka competition. Bagged 2nd place, with feedback of the drink being slightly too sweet.

November 2015

'Pusser's Galore'

Pusser's (blue label) rum, creme de banane, blood orange syrup, Peychaud bitters.

The story behind this drink was inspired by James Bond's days a s a naval officer, and ingredients to create a cocktail suitable for being stranded on a desert island. Rum from the naval ration, banana found on said hypothetical island, blood orange to stave off scurvy, and bitters from Dr Peychaud. Sometimes it's nice to have a fun story behind a drink (and sometimes it's okay to have no story and just a tasty drink).

'Bubbles Up!'

Old Forester bourbon, Aperol, bubblegum syrup, pineapple shrub.

One of my more challenging recipes, getting the balance of bubblegum was crucial (having been criticised previously on more than one occasion for sweet drinks), and also I had never made a shrub before (a shrub essentially being a syrup made with vinegar).

I was quite nervous for this competition, and when I got through to the heats, I was still recovering from surgery on the actual day. Fortunately I had a very helpful friend who stood in as 'Fake Charley' for me and while I didn't place it was nice to continue to get my drinks out there and known.

December 2015

Competitions wind down for the busy bar season, so here is the Christmas special I created for my work place; 'Rudolph the Red Stag Reindeer'.

Using, you guessed it, Reg Stag Cherry bourbon with cream and extra cherry and chocolate flavours to create an indulgent dessert style cocktail for the festive period (and yes, spoiler alert: it's another sweet one).

The Rudolph garnish for this remains my current favourite one that I have created in terms of looks, and ability to mix into the cocktail for more chocolate flavour and a thicker texture.

January 2016

'Having an Absolut Bubble'

Absolut vodka, coconut water, green tea, frozen melon balls.

This probably deserves a blog post all of it's own, being both the biggest competition I've ever done, and my proudest competition achievement.

My entry for the #13thclassic Absolut competition, was a completely original drink and the first Absolut competition since the 90's. First submissions were back in December and then I made it all the way to the final five in the National final at the end of January. You can watch my video entry here, and a video made by Absolut of the final day here if you're interested.

February 2016

'Mirabellis on 43rd Street'

Licor 43, tropical syrup, lemon juice, egg white, passion fruit bitters, and Spanish bitters.

A competition I entered for nostalgic reasons, as Licor 43 put on an all-female competition back in November 2014 and it was the first cocktail competition I entered - with no real idea how competitions worked or what was expected.

My drink was created with my mum's palette in mind as the theme was Mother's Day, so the cocktail was an Eton Mess inspired dessert cocktail, with tropical fruit flavours. The other part of the competition was to create an accompanying chaser, for which mine was based on a cherry bakewell; combing the Licor 43 with amaretto and a cherry foam top.

As I reach the end of this post, I realise I should probably explain how cocktail competitions work for the benefit of those not as heavily involved in the bar industry. I suppose it varies from competition to competition, but the main idea is to firstly: create a tasty and well balanced drink using the spirit/brand the competition is for, and usually the cocktail needs to have something unique or special about it in order to stand out, whether that be an unusual ingredient or style of serve, or an inspirational story behind the cocktail; secondly get up to speed on your brand knowledge and history because the more of that you can show, the more extra points you can earn; and thirdly other criteria such as cocktail appearance and aroma can also be judged.

I have a mixed relationship with cocktail competitions. Certain things will annoy me such as when judges will be looking for something specific without really telling you, or the overall weighting of points isn't biased toward the actual taste of the cocktail; but on the whole I think cocktail competitions are a great way to build confidence, network, showcase your more creative ideas, and learn more from others too.

*shoutout to my friend James for the name of this one!

Tuesday 11 August 2015

Competition Roundup February-July 2015

As promised, here is a round up of all the drinks I've created for various cocktail competitions since February. There's a few more that I didn't manage to get pictures of, but fear not because I'm sure there will be many more competitions in the future!

Left to right, top to bottom: 'Unbe-lava-ble Martini' for Reyka vodka, 'Total Eclipse of the Heart' for Luxardo, 'King's Pearfection' For Moskovskaya vodka, 'The Aurora' for Reyka 24 hour competition, 'The Mosh Tree' for Sailor Jerry's, 'Caught in the Rain' and 'Wake Me Up Before You Coco' for Coco Lopez and El Dorado rum, 'Wild as the Forest' for Wild Turkey bourbon, 'Hibiscus Coppernicus' and 'Duck Courage' for Portobello Road gin.

I'm particularly proud of 'The Mosh Tree', pictured centre, since I won the Sailor Jerry's competition. Some of my other favourites here include 'The Aurora' because my use of tonic in the drink caused it to fluoresce under U.V. light, 'Total Eclipse of the Heart' because it tasted like Jaffa cakes, and 'Wake Me Up Before You Coco' because it's a twist on a Piña Colada (and who doesn't love Piña Coladas?!).

Thursday 9 July 2015

Rhubarb and Custard Fizz

Lack of laptop while it's been getting fixed has made everything rather quiet on this blog after my initial post! In the meantime, I've finished University and thrown myself into full time bartending, entering plenty of competitions (full round up to follow!) and creating different specials for the bar I work at.

The first cocktail special I came up with back in March is the Rhubarb and Custard Fizz - it combines the creaminess of Titos vodka with rhubarb and apricot flavours to make a drink which is very reminiscent of rhubarb and custard sweets. All the nostalgia!

Rhubarb and Custard Fizz:

25ml Titos vodka
25ml Briottet Rhubarb liqueur
20ml apricot syrup
15ml lemon juice
25ml cream soda
2 dashes Peychaud bitters

Shake and strain over crushed ice into a receptacle of your choice; we used tin cans at work, but I think it looks great in a hurricane too (as below). Garnish with dried apricots and rhubarb and custard sweets to bring back childhood memories.

Monday 9 March 2015

Off the Hook

This cocktail came about when my housemate and I were talking about sea-themed drinks, somehow we got onto the conversation of dolphins, and the rest is history. It's a refreshing cocktail, but without being too stereotypically summery.


25ml vodka
25ml blue curaçao
20ml blueberry puree
15ml lime juice
50ml lychee juice

Shaken over ice, double strained, and served in a martini glass. And don't forget an escaped dolphin sweet for garnish!