When the day has been long, journeys have been screwed up, and you have to leave a fab event early having only just met some great people, only a few things can make you feel less grumpy. Those include being given a cocktail in a takeaway bottle so you don’t have to miss out. It’s amazing how one little potion-like bottle can put a smile on your face and send you home feeling far perkier than you thought.
And so went my visit to Portobello Star. I and some other lovely bloggers were invited to try their cocktail masterclasses. The Star itself is an historic place. Right on the Portobello Road, it’s been open since 1740, serving the whole range of people who come to one of London’s most famous markets. Inside it’s trendy yet understated, oozing the promise of good cocktails and fun nights.
Our masterclass was upstairs in a space called The Apartment, where ebullient mixologist Nick prepared to take us through four cocktails, showing us how to pour, mix and (most importantly in my book) taste them. We also got an introduction to Portobello Star’s house infused spirits, created at a lab elsewhere in central London (mysterious I know…).
We started with the Fappening – described by Nick as a unisex approachable whisky sour. Now, I’m no cocktail expert – I love all the sweet sugary creations that people say are insulting to decent cocktails and can often be spotted clutching a Blue Lagoon or a Pina Colada – but this was a joy to drink. Toffee Apple Bourbon, lime juice, apple juice and egg white. Sweet with a hint of caramel, reminiscent of Butterkist toffee popcorn and blowtorched to give it a toasted creme brulee-like topping. Next time I’ll have one in a pint glass please.
Next we moved on to Mai Tais. Not my first choice to order, though of course I’ll happily drink them, but they were a good training ground for pouring measures (at which I’m kind of so-so), shaking cocktails (which I massively struggle with – please don’t ask me why, I just don’t seem to be able to do it in a way that resembles any kind of natural move), releasing cocktail shaker from glass (I’m pretty good at this, albeit slightly over-zealous), and arranging them prettily in glasses.
Margaritas seemed to be a favourite with some of my fellow cocktail-clutching bloggers though again – apart from that one crazy night in Vegas – they’re not a cocktail I’ve dabbled with on a regular basis. I did, however, love the salt rim malarkey and learned a handy bar tip – when the bar’s busy you can put a half salt rim on, that way you please everyone – along the way.
Like my Mai Tai, my Margarita didn’t set the world on fire. But it turns out that’s nothing to do with Nick’s recipe – just my execution. A few little tweaks from him to the finished product and it was world’s apart from the concoction I had managed to put together (complete with a wonky salt rim – who’d have thought that could be so difficult!).
And so we come to the fourth offering – the Negroni. Everyone seems to love Negronis these days, are they super trendy? Given the rather lengthy distance of my home from the Portobello Road, I had to cry off early, leaving my newfound friends to tackle the last cocktail without me.
Lucky for me, Nick decided I couldn’t leave without the final offering so made me up my own personal takeaway Negroni. How I resisted necking this right there on the Virgin Train I’ll never know, but I’m glad I didn’t. Because a day or so later, I poured it into just the right glass (discovered during a kitchen clearout) and for the first time in my life saw why everyone raves about Negronis.
Maybe it was the novelty of my takeaway Negroni. Maybe it was my newly-discovered glass. It could even have been the fact it was the end of a long, long week. Or perhaps it was Nick’s mad skills. But this Negroni had me converted. And I also happen to have Portobello Star’s recipe, so bring on the home cocktail-making.
All in all, it was a fabulous evening – one I wish I could have stayed until the end of. I learned a bit, I drank a bit, I talked a bit, and went away with some new blogging pals, a new place to visit next time I’m in London, and a new cocktail best friend. I think that’s what we call a successful night.
Portobello Star runs cocktail masterclasses for groups of four to 30 people. Prices start from £30 a head and you get a welcome cocktail then get taught to make up to three cocktails, plus learning about the house-made infusions. They’ll even lay food on for you, including burgers from Patty + Bun and tapas dishes from Pix.
I was invited to Portobello Star to try the cocktail masterclass with some other bloggers. We weren’t charged but we also weren’t asked to write anything complimentary, just our own experience. And while I do like to take my own pictures, I’m aware they’re not great, so here’s a few that the guys from Portobello Star took. As usual, ignore the watermark, these definitely aren’t my handiwork, it’s just a technical glitch!