A Hobbit, Top Gun and rum – what could possibly go better together?! Well, that is clearly the thinking of Oblix’s bar manager, Aaron Masonde, whose venue has been hijacked for the night by Jamie “Cocktail Hobbit” Jones (Diageo Reserve GB World Class Bartender of the Year 2017) in a Takamaka Rum tiki takeover, as part of Oblix’s “Top Gun” all-star bartender series. Sated ascends to the 32nd floor of the Shard to see what can be generated by such a triumvirate.
After going through the mandatory, airport-esque security checks and scans at the base of the Shard, we arrive at the bar and are greeted by a raucous collection of bar staff dressed in Hawaiian-style shirts, Captain hats and flight goggles. We’re not entirely sure what’s going on but we can tell we’re in for a good night.
Jamie can be seen preparing drinks behind the bar and chuckling with his cohorts. A special menu has been created for the night inspired by the “future of tiki” that showcases playful contemporary twists on classic tiki serves all featuring Takamaka Rum – a premium spirit from the Seychelles developed by two brothers, Richard and Bernard d’Offay (read our interview with Bernard here).
Whilst we wait for our first drinks to be made, we sip the flagship Spiced Rum from shells and admire the panorama of London coming to life in the dimming light. The rum is clean and smooth, with a lightly rounded spice and lingering notes of caramel and vanilla.
Our green and slightly frothy Pea & Mint Old Cuban arrives and we stare at it quizzically. Aaron explains that Takamaka white rum has been infused with garden peas, before being muddled with mint, sugar and lime, and topped up with champagne. The result is a refresh and slightly zingy cocktail that is the perfect palate cleanser to banish the worries of our hectic day and get us in the mood for tonight’s festivities.
Next up is the Crystal Clear Cuba Libre – a rum and coke that looks like a glass of water! Aaron explains that this is not in fact magic, but the result of the team redistilling Coca Cola through a rote evap, before reintroducing the acid and sugar (which the process removes) and mixing this transparent liquid with rum and sparkling water. The flavour of the Cuba Libre is very light with an essence of lime; the Coke flavour comes as an aftertaste and is nicely subtle, giving a chance for the true character of the rum to shine through. This is a very elegant and sophisticated bevvy that is dangerously drinkable and whose high alcohol content is hidden behind its crystal clear appearance and general quaffability.
We pause in our sampling of the menu to chat with Bernard who tells us, with easy amiability and relaxed humour, about how Takamaka got its start and its reputation for embodying “the spirit of the Seychelles” (read our full interview here). After a bit of a natter, we mention that we would love to try the white rum neat – as whenever we go to a country with a strong rum heritage, we ask the locals what they’re favourite expression is and they always say the white. This request is greeted with massive enthusiasm by Bernard, who pours us a measure and proceeds to watch our faces closely for the verdict. The nose is syrupy and sweet, with peaches, sultanas and a hint of cinnamon. We take a sip and we’re pretty sure our faces do something demonstrating intense intrigue and excitement, as Bernard sits back, nodding with pride. For a tipple that doesn’t contain any aged rum, it is exceptionally creamy. Clean and soft, it robes the tongue before notes of lemongrass, ripe red grape and tailored spice are rolled out. The ending is long with hints of pepper coddled by an almost cake-like fullness.
Our next cocktail, the Zom-bee, with lemon, bee pollen, pineapple, guava and Campari bitters, arrives in a Tiki cup, just as Bernard decides we should try a Takamaka Rum Sour. The Zom-bee is delicious and easy to drinking, but our attention is captured by the off-the-menu rum sour: developed, rounded and a tad smoky, this is an utterly gorgeous take on a classic that could happily become our regular at Oblix.
We end the evening with Leather & Lipstick, which arrives in a champagne glass, topped with an artful sugar cone. The sparkling wine used gives it a light fizz, whilst the Takamaka Extra Noir Cuba Libre Reduction, coffee and walnut bitters, create heavy depths whose body, richness, and bitterness work wonders against the caramel cage.
Before bidding farewell to the team and meandering out of the bar, we catch up with Jamie to see how his night has gone.
“Yeah it’s gone really well! The turnout has been great and everyone’s enjoyed the drinks. It was great fun working with Aaron and the Oblix team to make some really innovative Tiki style drinks. Tiki is all about escapism so it meant we could be playful. It was fun seeing everyone’s reactions to our Crystal Clear Cuba Libre as it wasn’t what they expected to taste.”
We congratulate him on his new position as Director of Scotch+Limon, before descending The Shard in search of food. The event was everything we could wish for – entertaining, educational and brimming with a fantastic bevvy of cocktails.
Feature image: Oblix Restaurant – The Shard, London. Copyright – Richard Southall/Ilona Zielinska