I wrote a few weeks ago about Petworth Citizen’s great Reading Room Bar and its awesome weekly literary cocktail series. Craving that magic combination of good books and drink, I headed over for the “Arabian Night” celebration, superbly mc’ed by Ms. Chantal Tseng. Now I had almost no knowledge of the Arabian Nights stories beyond the bare bones (read the interesting wiki here) but ignorance did nothing to temper the fun. One of the joys of the series is the willingness of Ms. Tseng and the great bar staff to give you a “Cliff Notes” version of the stories and explain their cocktail pairings. Oh, and you get to drink 🙂 And the cocktails are great, as Ms. Tseng does a wonderful job crafting drinks that incorporate some really intriguing ingredients and match the spirit of key stories.
The journey began with “The Sleeper Awakened” with Plymouth Gin, Cocchi Americano, dry curacao, lemon, and cardamom and cider vinegar. This was a great starter and balanced, with a smooth taste throughout. The gin is featured well and the cocchi and cider compliment with nice clips as you sip. Liked it. Next up was my favorite “The History of Sinbad the Sailor” with Demouiseau agricole rhum, Ron del Barrilito-aged rum, dry curacao, pistachio orgeat, lime, grapefruit, pomegranate and dried apricot. This was great, powerful, and wonderfully complex – loved how the grapefruit taste shined through. A really different and richer citrus taste than one is used to, it also conveys a bitter note and the orgeat adds something intriguing. Very full-bodied, I really loved this adventurous cocktail.
On to “The History of Ali Baba and the Forty Robbers who Were Killed By One Slave” with rendezvous rye, Blandy’s maimsey 5 year Madeira, Gran Classico Bitter, aromatic bitters and sesame. Now I was a bit worried about this one because I’m not a huge fan of either rye or madeira, but it ended up being a favorite. The taste is measured and consistent, I liked how the sweetness of the madeira (I think) played with the other ingredients. Plus, we got a quick Madeira tasting! Next up was the “The History of Camaralzaman, Prince of the Isle of the Children of Khaledan” with Hidalgo Napoleon Amontillada, Contratto Rosso Vermouth, Fernet Branca, shiso, orange peal and saffron. This drink had a pretty even, subtly bitter taste complicated by the orange and saffron hints. Good.
The finale was “Shahrazad’s Tea” with Diego Amontillado, Green Chartreuse, Absinthe, honey, and chamomile-lemongrass-mint tea. I really loved the floral and tea notes in this one and the lemongrass taste was great. I regretted getting this cold as I think a hot version would have been even more interesting. Just a very unique taste that I’ve never had before in a cocktail. Liked it!