When we found out that one of our favourite London bars – Jason Atherton’s The Blind Pig – was launching its first new cocktail list since the speakeasy opened in 2013, we were a little more than a tad excited. However, once we learnt that the menu had been inspired by classic children’s literature, including The BFG, Winnie the Pooh and The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, we knew that we had to sample these gloriumptious, delumptious razztwizzlers right away! So, that very evening, we made our way towards the hanging ‘Opticians’ sign that marks the venue’s receded entrance, grabbed the blindfolded pig doorknocker by the snout and headed up to the low-lit, wooden panelled bar whose previous menu we’d gotten to know by heart.
Once we’ve been shown to our seats by the ever-friendly waiting staff, we glance around eagerly, trying to guess the inspiration behind our fellow imbibers’ half-finished choices. Before we can fathom anything out, we’re handed a leather folder, with debossed gold print reading ‘Long and Short Great British Tails’. Inside, cocktails are accompanied by detailed drawings by illustrator Masha Karpushina, depicting bespoke artwork that captures the inspiration behind each drink. The dimmed lighting meant that we’re forced to crowd around our table’s flickering candle, earnestly trying to make out the finer details of the drawings, and of course, the ingredients in the cocktails. This ceremony of squinting at a shared menu may have perturbed in another setting, however here it feels oddly like nursery Story Time, or reading under the covers by torchlight when it was well passed our younger selves’ bedtimes.
‘Mr Tumness’ Tipple’ arrives in a crystal glass with a large ice block at its heart. The colour is reminiscent of orange Turkish delight but despite the initial sweet smell of the sherry, this is a strong drink which is a lot more complex than it looks. Hendrick gin works with Lanique to create a perfumed spirit based. Pedro Ximenez sherry adds a thick, woody element that is rounded by the chocolate bitters. Tobacco creates a dry finish whilst a single rose petal ties the Lanique and adds to the drink’s sense of magic.
Next up is Winnie the Pooh’s concoction, delightfully served in a clay honey pot and topped with an ode to Piglet in the form of a vegan Percy Pig sweet. Made up of a blend of Havana 7 rum, Crowded Hive mead, Somerset apple brandy, salted butter, lemon, honey and orange bitters, it calls to mind something in the region of a cold toddy. The strength of the spirits and the bitter citrus elements cut through the sweetness of the honey to create a drink that stays true to its sticky inspiration without sacrificing the vital balance of flavours.
Sadly, ‘Half a Pint o’ Butteh’ is not as successful. Based on the beverage served at the Three Broomsticks in J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter, the inclusion of butter and butterscotch gives it a rich smoothness. Infusions of thyme and citrus add a layer of intrigue but the carbonation – whilst making a valiant attempt to cut through the thick butters – throws the drink off. The more we sip from our tankards, the less palatable the drink becomes and we wonder if it would’ve worked better as a decadent flat shot, unapologetically sweet and moreish.
We leave our half pints unfinished and soldiered, reaching our destination with the aptly named ‘X Marks the Spot’, which is indeed a treasure to behold. Presented in a tall wooden vessel, with a Blind Pig pirate flag and dehydrated apple slice, this is a multisensory experience. As we pick up the rough cups, bringing them to our lips, we smell the peat and Lapsang’s gentle smokiness. Our first sip introduces sweet apple notes that mellow on the palate to give way to Chivas Regal 12’s lingering smoke, bringing the drink full-circle and culminating in a full mouthfeel. Appleton VX rum adds a Caribbean flare and makes this an incredibly easy drinking, grown-up punch that we would heartily recommend to all.
All in all, the new menu is a fun and engaging exploration of nostalgia and flavours. The innovation that The Blind Pig is known for has stayed in tack and with an entire book of stories to choose from, there is always something to discover.