There are right and wrong times to drink certain cocktails. A negroni with breakfast, an espresso martini before dinner and a mojito after supper might suggest you’ve got a drinking problem. A bloody mary in the morning, a martini before dinner and an old fashioned after dessert on the other hand? Well that’s just common sense.
When it comes to choosing a cocktail to drink alongside dinner, things are less clear cut. For me, wine and beer are nearly always a better accompaniment to food than mixed drinks. However, Typing Room head chef Lee Westcott and luxury rum producers Ron Zacapa have done as good a job as is humanly possible at overturning this.
The Art of Slow supper club at the Typing Room is, as the name would suggest, all about slow cooked food and leisurely dining. There’s no denying that cooking stuff gently over a long period of time can add another dimension to food. The same is true of alcohol. A glass of Zacapa XO, which is blended with rums that have been aged for up to 25 years, is more like drinking a cognac than what most people would recognise as rum.
Westcott’s Typing Room supper club food is just sublime, with the starter of slow cured sea trout, kohirabi, lime and raisin one of the most extraordinary things I’ve eaten in recent memory.
The main course of 72-hour braised beef cheek, fermented grains, smoked bone marrow and turnip isn’t too shoddy either, but ultimately it was the accompanying cocktail that blew me away. I believe in equality of gastronomy. In other words, I’m happy to consume pretty much any animal, vegetable and mineral on this planet (except for any animals that are particularly smart, beautiful or useful to humans – I know, life just isn’t fair).
That being said, I’ve never really got on well with leeks, yet the Zacapa 23 leek cocktail (I don’t think it has a proper name yet) is a surprisingly delightful drink. It’s 50ml of Zacapa 23, two slices of honey roasted leek (lightly muddled in a mixing glass), 3ml of balsamic vinegar, two pinches of all spice, 5ml of honey and 10ml of chestnut liqueur all stirred over ice, double strained and garnished with a leek. The resulting cocktail has all of the complexity of an old fashioned with the sharpness of a gibson martini.
After the supper club, I drunkenly joined forces with another drinks writer to petition the Typing Room to keep this cocktail on the menu. We were victorious, but sadly you’ll have to wait until after 9 May to order one, which is when The Art of Slow supper club will run (tickets will be available to buy online at biletto.co.uk from 1 April). I’m not into this waiting around lark, which is why I’ve included the recipe above.
But while the Typing Room tries to match an entire meal with cocktails the Savoy is focusing solely on desserts. From 7:30pm until midnight, the sumptuous Thames Foyer packs away the afternoon tea and replaces it with something even more indulgent. The Temptation Wheel is a mahogany spinning wheel that aims to match cocktails with the perfect desserts and chocolates. You’ll be served from an art deco domed bell cart so flamboyant that it would make even the Great Gatsby blush, while inside you’ll find a host of equally theatrical desserts.
The peach melba is fun, and is recommended to be eaten alongside the Southern Rose: Grey Goose, rose, muscat, St. Germain and raspberry syrup. Also, you should check out the Kings & Quince cocktail, which is the simple but effective mix of Woodford Reserve Distiller's Select, quince liqueur and dry vermouth.
I still doubt that I’ll ever be convinced that cocktails and food make the perfect bedfellows – but the matchmakers at the Typing Room and the Savoy are doing their best to prove me wrong.