August was a good month for whisky, with enough cold snaps to justify hunkering down with a dram of something peaty, yet with enough mild evenings to encourage the consumption of Whisky Sours. I've already written a little about Scotch over on Texture, but since then I've taken Raffe's advice and tried out Motel's excellent selection. The highlight of that evening was a subtle and obscure malt called Ledaig (which we cleaned them out of), but there were many other excellent malts consumed on that night. I just seem to have mislaid my notes: I can't imagine why.
Of the whisky cocktails, you would have thought that a sour would be simple enough, but no. As with all simple drinks, it's a matter of balance, and in most cases the result was not enough whisky and too much sour. Buena Vista Social Club was a particularly bad offender on that score, as their attempt was so overwhelmed with acidic citrus flavours that it tasted like a bad mojito. Come to think of it, every cocktail at Buena Vista tastes like a bad mojito.
A Rob Roy should be pretty straightforward too, but the bartender at Juniper (once a half-respectable cocktail bar) had to be told that a Rob Roy is a Manhattan with Scotch instead of American whiskey. He then had to be instructed in how to make a Manhattan, and finally had to be gently reminded that bourbon isn't from Scotland. The result was actually acceptable, though the process was so stressful I could have done with two by the time it was finished. The staff at Manhattan Lounge, while also a little unsure, delivered a very pleasant one without too much fuss. The best one I had was from Plate, who continue to quietly impress with their professionalism.
A few places have their own whisk(e)y based cocktails, and while Matterhorn's Mandarin & Laphroaig Sour was perhaps guilty of overcomplicating what should be a simple classic, Sandwiches came up with a surprisingly good concoction of Canadian Club, red vermouth, pastis and star anise. It's just a pity that they had it to saddle it with a jokey name: "Let's just call it a bum steer".
For September, I'll be sticking to a very simple and well-known drink, though who knows what weird variations local bartenders have been able to come up with.