The short bio in my sidebar tells it like it is – I have a weakness for delicious cocktails. In London that is a dangerous weakness to have, because it makes my waistline expand and my bank account shrink. But I wouldn’t have it any other way, especially after my trip to the the Palm Court…
London wears many hats, but the city could easily dub itself the reigning sovereign in the world of cocktails. The sheer number of ornate bars, moody speakeasies and quirky hole-in-the-wall establishments alone could earn it that title. But they are not only numerous – many of them are also incredibly good. So much so that it is becoming increasingly difficult for any given place to truly impress me.
Well, the Palm Court managed to do just that with their limited edition Hogarth cocktail menu. As a travel blogger, I consider myself a storyteller first and a traveller second. If you just wanted travel tips, I’d rather you consulted a Lonely Planet guidebook – my advice is not as widely applicable or practical. What I have to offer is a new way of looking at the world around you, an opportunity to laugh and cry with me as I continue on my journey of exploration.
This belief of mine extends far beyond the realm of this site – I believe any artist should consider themselves a storyteller. And what are professional bartenders, if not artists? Just like a painter blends her acrylic paints into a fantastical rainbow, a bartender mixes different ingredients hoping to inspire an emotional response in his guests – and a certain degree of inebriation too, which is always fun.
The good news is that the folks at the Palm Court agree. That is why David Lawlor, their amazing mixologist, created a novel cocktail menu commemorating the 250th anniversary of William Hogarth’s death. This 18th century painter is often credited as the inventor of comic books, or sequential art at the very least – but there’s more.
One of his most famous works is called “Beer Street and Gin Lane” – a satirical depiction of British society at the time, showing the merits of drinking beer and the evils of drinking gin. I would typically be the first person to jump to gin’s defence, but in Hogarth’s time this potent alcohol was the root of many serious issues.
I am in academic spirits today (and you thought I’d skip the puns today!), so let me give you a little overview of the situation. The first half of the 18th century in London is often referred to as the Gin Craze, capitalised because people were genuinely going that crazy for gin. The local government tried to contain it in 1736 with an act effectively prohibiting production of gin by requiring traders to buy extremely expensive licences – only two were ever taken out! This policy backfired very quickly and led to the emergence of illegal gin distilleries, which were even less reliable and ended up not just getting people drunk but lethally poisoned. Whoops.
But by 1751, the government had had enough – apparently governing a bunch of wasted morons was beyond them. I’m not sure what my university’s provost would have to say about that, but I suspect he would agree. Be they students or ordinary citizens, drunk people are notoriously hard to deal with. Not that I’d know from first hand experience or anything… ehm.
It is in this context that William Hogarth produced his two famous prints, likely to help his friend Henry Fielding with passing the Gin Act of 1751. Fine, that’s enough history for today – now that I’ve warned you of all its dangers let’s get wasted on gin! Humanity never learns, woo!
There are four different cocktails in the Hogarth limited edition. Unsurprisingly, there is “Beer Street” – a delightful blend of chocolate beer, vintage port, hazelnut liqueur, almonds, blackberries and honey syrup – and “Gin Lane”, which is like a Negroni with the fun addition of apricot marmalade and entirely virtuous.
The other two, “Labour & Love” and “Liberty & Art”, combine both gin and beer. When I first read the menu I was pretty unsure about this combination, but the first cocktail quickly convinced me to put my judgment aside. The second I was not a massive fan of – it was slightly bland, despite sounding incredible on paper. Having said that, it was the only cocktail I would not order again which is jolly good because I’m a hard woman to please.
If I only had to choose one of these, I’d definitely go with “Beer Street” – it’s like a tall grown-up glass of hot chocolate and class. The idea of chocolate beer made me a little uneasy at first, but I stand corrected!
Of course, it wouldn’t be me if I did not include a cheeky shot of myself – and my lovely friend Kat – in the post. That purple blazer really demanded an audience and I am ever so thankful that you are always happy to oblige me. The limited edition Hogarth cocktails will be available at The Palm Court (nearest tube stop is Green Park) until November 29, 2014 for £12 each. In other words, get there tonight!
If you cannot make it in time, stay tuned for more info on my Facebook page – I will be going back in December to review their Christmas afternoon tea and I can’t wait to tell you more about that!
Do you consider cocktails works of art? Which is your favourite tipple? What do you think about Hogarth and his famous prints?
Disclaimer: I was a guest of The Palm Court in exchange for this review. As always, all opinions are my own – you’ve all seen me write bad reviews before and while I hate doing that, being honest with you is my number one priority!