Housed in the monochrome elegance of Rosylee Tea Rooms in the Northern Quarter, a whiskey-tasting food pairing extravaganza provided bountiful boozey education, and a darn good stiff drink or two.
On arrival, my companion and I were handed a fruity and refreshing cocktail: the Summer Punch. Granted, you don’t usually associate whisky as the most orthodox choice of spirits for cocktails, but it actually worked beautifully. The Buffalo Trace whiskey was distinct and integral to the drink, thoughtfully used, and not just added to the mix as an after-thought to prove a point. Who knew whiskey could make for great cocktails that even a girl like me, who rarely dares to drink the stuff, could enjoy?
We were privileged enough to be sat among a panel of whisky connoisseurs including bar managers, mixologists and the lucky breed of persons who are essentially professional whiskey drinkers. Surrounded by such enthusiasts, we were encouraged to try the George T Stagg Bourbon… neat. Slightly apprehensive about drinking such a strong elixir on a school night, we obliged anyway. Luckily the whiskey wasn’t too risky. The smoky, deep flavour of the bourbon, the honey sweetness and alcoholic strength that warmly evaporated off the tongue was a pure delight.
Next we tried the Mint Julep; a mojito-like beverage, made with whiskey instead of rum (no kidding), sugar, mint and soda water, originally created to take the rough edge out of drinking average-calibre straight whiskey, but now a great drink in its own right. It worked nicely, and I was slowly coming round to the idea of whiskey being a veritable cocktail ingredient choice. To accompany our Mint Julep we sampled a scrumptious starter consisting of a delicate pan-fried seabass with celeriac, vanilla puree and warm courgette salad. The sugariness of the beverage complemented the salty nature of the dish, making for a mouth-watering taste sensation.
Whoever heard of a whisky sour?! Well it turns out a lot of people have… and so have we, after trying one that evening. Although tasting exactly as a sour should, including what I thought was an almost authentic marzipan-like, almondy taste and a lip-smacking tartness, there was absolutely no Amaretto in the concoction whatsoever. The W L Weller whiskey very much held its own within a new context (for me) and took a new ownership of the drink. Paired with the smoked spiced pork belly and creamed vegetables, it was certainly the favourite beverage of the night... Whiskey: we applaud you.
A previous whiskey novice, who once approached it with trepidation, has been transformed into a sophisticated aficionado who would not flinch at the prospect of nursing a tumbler filled with bourbon on the rocks. A few hairs have grown on my chest.