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Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Wigwambam - Malt Jockey - Three Blind Mice - Whistling Shop

Thursday 21st March - I snapped up two tickets a fortnight ago to a Monkey Shoulder Whiskey event called "For One Night Only - Malt Jockey" without really knowing what it was. When it sold out an hour later I started to get excited and invited Sam (of Meat Licker fame) along for the ride. The event was held in Factory 7 (a versatile events space) near Liverpool Street/Shoreditch High Street round the corner from the Queen of Hoxton pub (currently housing the now London standard mandatory table-tennis table).  Sam was running a bit late so I decided to head up to the roof of the pub to check out their rooftop installation, Wigwambam.


Wigwambam is a temporary rooftop wigwam bar complete with a large central BBQ for cooking the daily specials and for toasting Smores (see below).  There is another bar outside the main wigwam on the roof but still under cover. It's a beautiful venue and surprisingly warm when inside the wigwam considering that there isn't much protecting you from the elements. Luckily they have just extended their stay until the end of April. Put some time aside and head to Wigwambam asap!


Sam gave me a two minute warning so I popped back over to Factory 7 and headed inside. On arrival we were given drinks tokens (3 cocktails each), a food token (1 Street Kitchen burger), 1 betting token and a free jockey polo shirt.  The event was put on by Monkey Shoulder whiskey to promote their delicious blend of single malts which tastes superb on its own or in a range of cocktails.  To keep us busy they set up scalectrix, sugar cube and bitters tasting, remote control horse racing and betting, and cocktail making masterclasses.  We figured that the masterclass queue would fill up very quickly so we headed over there with our first free cocktail (a delicious Old Fashioned).  5 minutes later we were being taught how to make the Malt Jockey cocktail by a pro - 2 shots Monkey Shoulder, 1 shot Sweet Vermouth, 1/4 shot Maraschino and 1 dash of Chocolate Bitters with Orange Peel Garnish. I went in feeling pretty cocky about my cocktail making skills but quickly realised I knew very little after his fascinating lesson. We walked away with 1 extremely tasty drink.


Sam and I like to get our money's worth at events so we were as efficient as possible moving around the room so that we didn't miss out on anything.  Next we headed over to try some interesting bottles of bitters by putting a dash on to a sugar cube and eating it whole like a horsey. The cinnamon and coriander variations stood out for us. We then went to put some bets on the horse racing - choose the correct winner and you get another token, aiming to get to 3 tokens for a free drink. Sadly all 5 of their remote control cars had broken down so all bets were off.


We decided to turn this to our favour however and discussed with the betting man that since we hadn't yet betted, we could potentially have won limitless drinks all evening given the opportunity.  He agreed and sent us off to the bar for a free drink.  Meanwhile they turned the race course into seating - it would have been horrendously busy if they hadn't done this! This is where we met bartender Russell, our go to guy for the evening (along with the equally excellent girl serving next to him). He happily gave us two free Ginger Brewskis (whiskey, ginger syrup, lemon juice topped with London pride) without really caring why we wanted them on the house.


This was the beginning of our dangerous addiction to getting extra food and drinks from the generous staff who clearly had tonnes of produce to get rid of.  We ended up having 5 incredible Street Kitchen gourmet bacon butties instead of 2 (including the last one of the night), simply by asking for more! It seems Street Kitchen can do no wrong - everything they make me is always delicious. Head to their new home in Shoreditch or visit them near the Doodle Bar in Battersea when you get a chance. We also were gifted several more cocktails by the barstaff, including a cheeky pour of whiskey straight into our mouths over the counter from our new friends. We squeezed in a fun game of scalectrix in between drinks (we both flew off the track pretty early on) and eventually decided to head towards the exit.  However, as we were leaving, the Cloakroom girls gave us more free drinks tokens on the grounds that we would bring them some back. We ended up sneakily passing them their cocktails behind coats - probably totally unnecessary but it seemed clever at the time.

This took our final tally to 19 cocktails and 5 burgers (rather than 6 and 1) which we were pretty happy with. To top that off, we were also given an extra polo shirt in a different colour to add to our collection on the way out. The staff were fantastic all night, the event was very well planned and most importantly, the Monkey Shoulder based drinks were so interesting and moreish that we didn't get bored of them at all throughout the evening. It was all over by 10.30 so we decided to quickly try out a couple of places nearby whilst we were in town.


First up we popped into Three Blind Mice bar on Ravey Street after reading some good things about it. Sadly, it was completely empty and had no atmosphere so we headed straight out without even getting a drink.  It's tricky to find which is always fun but I don't think it stands out enough to compete with London's more exciting underground bars. We then headed round the corner to Whistling Shop on Worship Street set up by the guys behind Purl. They serve up some pretty odd drinks here, making good use of their laboratory that you can have a look at on one side of the bar.


We weren't overly impressed by our two bizarre cocktails but we had possibly already had a little too much Monkey Shoulder fun (all for £15) to appreciate the drinks on offer here (around £12 for 1).  I feel I should probably go back to try a few more things - the Radiation Aged Cocktail in particular stands out.  They also have a private room with odd bottled concoctions called The Dram Shop, and put on special experimental cocktail events in The Emporium that are worth checking out. There's definitely enough going on here to have a great evening but I'm not yet convinced by whether making a drink with mad ingredients and serving it in a strange way is better than something simple (you have to try the Pina Colada at The Langham Hotel!). I'd be interested to hear what anyone thinks who has also been here so do get in touch on twitter -@matthew1hickman - or leave a comment!  Thanks to Sam for a great evening, and especially to all the Monkey Shoulder staff.  There was a bonus after party at London Cocktail Club a few days later with master bartender Dean Callan that I will write about soon - a crazy evening that ended with me holding Johnny Depp's gun from Pirates of the Caribbean 2!


Coming up this week: Tanqueray Gin free Popup on Floral Street (March 26th and 27th from 5-11pm), Wandsworth Common Beer Festival (27th-31st), and South Bank Real Street Food Festival this weekend (29th-1st - opens at 12.00).

Finally, keep your eyes peeled for tickets for the next big Monkey Shoulder event called "Popcorn Flip" being held on 21st November - they have promised popcorn cannons and bouncy castles! Update - tickets are now on sale here.

Square Meal

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