Why have a wooden gift when you can have a Harvey Nichols 5th floor Cocktail Masterclass to celebrate your 5th Wedding Anniversary? Well that’s exactly what we did. Sick of the word detox I decided that our wedding anniversary was the perfect excuse for a retox.
I still can’t believe that we have been married for five years. 2014 has been a trying year for Ross and myself as we have had more than our fair share of tragedy to cope with.
So in a lot of ways this wedding anniversary was even more important to me that the four previous ones. Not the kind of girl to make her partner suffer anything as awful as dance lessons I looked around for something that I knew Ross would enjoy.
Ross has also been a huge support with getting my blog SurreyKitchen off the ground, from taking the photographs, from answering my stupid IT questions and suggesting new ideas for posts. The blog has helped to keep us both afloat during the difficulties we have had to face this year. So I decided it would be appropriate to celebrate with something food or drink related.
Food and drink are as important to my husband as they are to Tony Soprano. A woman who couldn’t cook or who had a negative relationship with food would never have won my husband’s heart.
Ross has always wanted to go to Cuba to learn to make Mojito’s (preferably in a speed boat like Colin Farrell in Miami Vice). With all the stress in our lives this is not a realistic option at the moment. So I did the next best thing. I booked the Cuban Cocktail Masterclass on the 5th floor at Harvey Nichols.
The masterclass began at 9:30 am with a delicious breakfast of pastries, fruit sticks, mini smoked salmon and cream cheese bagels, Greek yoghurt with honey granola, tea and coffee plus a tasty mocktail to get you in the mood.
You are then asked to take your seats around the famous 5th floor bar, which has of course won the award for best London cocktail bar 6 years running, serving a whole host of celebrities from Dustin Hoffman to Brad Pitt. This is nothing to do with the Harvey Nichols name. The 5th floor bar has earned the title on its own merit due to the quality of its cocktails. One member of bar staff is employed just to squeeze fruit. All cocktails are made with 100% freshly squeezed fruit juice.
Then begins the hilarious lecture by head bartender Stani Visciano, whose knowledge is sky-high. The passion this man puts not only into the cocktails he is creating, but into making sure you are having a good time is what makes this class.
Stani taught us the basic mixology of the three classic Cuban cocktails – The Mojito, El Presidente and the Hemingway Daiquiri. The three golden rules for mixing a cocktail are quality, alcohol and freshness. Firstly forget the £7 bottle of rum your parents brought you back from their package holiday. Cocktails should always be made with premium spirits.
Secondly always check the alcohol percentage on the bottle of drink you are using. Remember you are not trying to kill your guests (well unless of course the in-laws are round.) Stani gave us a wonderful demonstration of how to open a champagne bottle correctly (as softly as possible) and then the one he uses for when his mother in law comes round. But like most mother in-laws she is like something from the Matrix and always manages to dodge the Cork.
The third and final rule is freshness and this goes back to the guy better known to the bar staff as super Mario who is employed just to squeeze the fruit. We’ve all had a dodgy Bellini or Mojito in a pub or one of the many high street restaurant chains (who will remain nameless on this blog). Well that is because the alcohol is cheap and the fruit juice is out of a carton.
After Stani has told you literally everything you could ever wish to know about cocktail making and a lot of tasting, you get to jump behind the bar and make a cocktail of your own choice.
Both of us went for the Mojito and the 5th floor bar recipe is:
10 mint leaves
5 lime wedges
3tsp Gomme Syrup
50ml Havana Club Rum
1) Squeeze and drop 5 lime wedges into glass
2) Add 3tsp of the syrup and stir with a bar spoon
3) Clap mint and add to glass
4) Gently crush with muddler
5) Add 50ml Havana Club Rum
6) Add as much crushed ice as you can and stir with bar spoon so all the ingredients are combined with the ice.
7) Top with soda and garnish with another mint leaf. Don’t add too much soda because you don’t want to dilute the flavour of cocktail. You want the Mojito to be minty, sugary and sour all at the same time!
After managing to break a glass behind the famous 5th floor bar as I was a bit over zealous with the muddler our masterclass ended with lunch in the restaurant. Perfect for sobering us up a bit for the journey home. Before we left Stani presented us with our own Harvey Nichols Cocktail Masterclass Certificates. Ross was delighted with his surprise and just relieved I hadn’t dragged him to a dance class. You think after five years he would know me better than that!
If anyone out there thinks we are just a pair of alcoholics I did in fact get a wooden gift. A train with the addition of a letter M for Miles our cat and face of SurreyKitchen.com. Ross also kindly booked the food writing course at Leith’s School of Food and Wine with Lulu Grimes, Deputy editor of Olive and BBC Good Food Magazine and author of numerous cookbooks as a present for me. That is not until October so you will have to watch this space if you are interested in learning more about that course.