This week I headed along to the Bombay Sapphire Imaginarium, a pop-up bar above the wonderful Callooh Callay in Shoreditch, that serves fantastic cocktails by the UK and Ireland’s Most Innovative Bartender 2014 – Rich Woods.
On a balmy, sunny evening, part of me wanted to sit in a beer garden, by a river, or on whatever patch of grass I could find and bask in the sun’s rays for the remaining hours of the day, but instead I made the wise decision to head inside Callooh Callay, through their famous wardrobe door, and up some stairs to reach the beautifully decorated Imaginarium.
Photo courtesy of @themrwyatt
We were the first customers at the week-long pop-up, and were welcomed by Sean Ware, Bombay Sapphire UK Brand Ambassador, with open arms and humongous gin and tonics; the perfect reception. 50ml Bombay Sapphire, 100ml Fever Tree tonic, a wedge of lime, and bucket loads of ice poured into these goblets; The Ultimate Gin & Tonic.
The cocktails on offer were varied and, at just a fiver a go, hard to refuse! We had four between us: the Blue Cheese & Chocolate Martini, the Oops-a-Daisy, the Essence of Mary, and The Artist’s Impression (with a Happy Ending, naturally).
The Oops-a-Daisy (left) and Blue Cheese & Chocolate Martini (right).
Each drink had been designed to “dazzle the senses, and spark the imagination”, and boy, did they deliver. Each cocktail was carefully crafted, beautifully presented, and had the most amazing aromas and flavour combinations – a heady mix which created a fantastic experience.
The Essence of Mary, made with Duck and Waffle’s own spiced tomato consommé made for a great, lighter (although no less boozy) alternative to the Bloody Mary. The Artist’s Impression, a classic gin Martini, was available as bitter, with a twist, or with a Happy Ending. Our version of a Happy Ending was made with Vanilla essence and cola. Sweet, dry and delicious.
I’ve always thought Bombay Sapphire works incredibly well in cocktails, and the Imaginarium did not disappoint. Personally, it’s always been my gin of choice in a Martini, as its ever-so-slightly oily texture sets it apart from other gins, working well with the vermouth.
I asked Rich Woods, the mastermind behind the cocktails and our excellent bartender for the evening, how he got into his line of work (he is head of spirit and cocktail development at Samba Brands Management, and can be found heading up Duck and Waffle in London’s Heron Tower).
“I wanted to be an architect! I just jumped behind the bar once to help someone out, and thought, ‘hey, I really enjoyed that!'”. When asked, “isn’t bar-tending a bit of a leap from architecture?”, he replied, “Well, you’re still building something”.
The Bombay Sapphire Imaginarium runs until 24th May at Callooh Callay, 65 Rivington Street, London, EC2A 3AY.
For more details, and to reserve your place, call 0207 739 4781.