The Christmas party scene seems to be well and truly here and my birthday, back in November, seems like eons away. Still, I have some very fond memories of those celebrations, one of which was the visit that DTS & I made to our favourite pop-up, speakeasy-themed event, The Candlelight Club. Each evening at this splendid 1920s styled club is given a theme and that of our recent trip was Ancient Egypt; particularly apt, given that I had a fondness for Egyptology when I was younger.
Also rather appropriate, given my recent delight at trying FEW White Whiskey, was the showcased spirit of the evening: Bootlegger White Grain Spirit. This is an unaged spirit produced by Halewood International, bottled at 40%ABV and designed to be sipped neat or used in cocktails. It’s obviously inspired by the white whiskeys of the American Prohibition and so fits in naturally on the shelves of the Candlelight Club’s back bar.
For every Candlelight Club event, a number of spectacular cocktails, all in line with the evening’s theme, are created especially. We were lucky enough to get ahold of some of the recipes from the event so that we could use them in our review, which you can find below.
If you’d like to see the wonders (cocktails, music, dancing and a spectacular atmosphere) of the Candlelight Club for yourself, both a Christmas and a New Year’s Eve event are in the works – you can book here. Not that you heard it from me. *wink*
Anyway, onto the review!
#1) On its own
Nose: Rich and creamy to start, very much like a sweet clotted cream ice-cream, before drawing out to a much more acidic, almost vinegary, note.
Taste: Smooth at the start, with rather distinct notes, again, of ice-cream and vanilla. A notable warmth then begins to build a second or so later, giving the finish a more spicy feel; this seems to have been carefully crafted to be smooth enough to sip (and it really is), but retain enough of that more rough warmth to fit in with the Prohibition style of spirit. Combined with the definite notes of ice-cream, this makes for an intriguing drink.
#2) Old Fashioned
Exceptionally smooth. The prominent flavour, which appears throughout, is that strong note of sweetened clotted cream, with a touch of banana and some added spice from the bitters. The finish is warmer, with a touch of dry spice from the bitters, which adds complexity. Still, this is a very pleasant drink and a twist on an Old Fashioned made with aged whiskey or brandy.
#3) White Manhattan (4:1)
An interesting way to make this creamy spirit more dry and spicy. It has quite nice body, being neither too heavy nor too light, with ice-cream vanilla notes in the middle and a warm, dry finish with a hint of black pepper.
#4) Sweet Manhattan (4:1)
Despite being only 4:1, the red vermouth comes through quite strongly, providing a deeply herbal and spicy drink that goes well with the lighter grain and vanilla of the spirits. There are also some fruity notes, reminding me of a dry sherry, and a creamy, warm finish.
#5) Bootlegger’s Prescription
Clandestine absinthe rinse, 30ml Bootlegger, 45ml gin, 1tsp Marmalade, 15ml lemon juice, Dash of Angostura Bitters, Garnish: lemon peel
Shake everything and strain into a coupe glass. Garnish with a lemon twist.
The original recipe calls for Chase Seville Orange Gin (an excellent product which DTS reviewed here), but Mr. Hartley of The Candlelight Club evolved this to use Marmalade Syrup and Gin, and DTS changed it further to use actual marmalade, rather than syrup.*
The scent of lemon sherbert (with a hint of liquorice) hits you first, reminding me of an Olde Sweet Shoppe. Refreshing lemon is followed by the clean, grainy, slightly creamy character of the Bootlegger and the absinthe comes through on the finish. Very morish and a great drink to start the evening with.
#6) Moonshine Cooler
40ml Bootlegger, 10ml lime juice, 10ml sugar syrup. Top with cloudy apple juice
Garnish: sprig of mint
Shake first three ingredients with ice and strain into an ice-filled highball. Top with cloudy apple juice. Garnish with a sprig of mint.
This cocktail is especially easy to drink and has an interesting flavour profile in that the mint and apple juice give it a chilled start, but the spirit adds its characteristic warmth to the finish. To begin with, it seems that the flavour is pretty simple: apple ice-cream, but this develops slightly on the finish, with a fruity sharpness – almost sherry-like, at points – coming into play. The mint adds a pleasant herbal fragrance before you sip.
#7 Cherry Christmas
40ml Bootlegger, 15ml Berentzen Wildkirsch (or cherry brandy, 10ml sugar syrup, 5ml rosemary tincture, Dash of cherry bitters, Top with cranberry juice.
Shake everything but the cranberry with ice and strain into an ice-filled highball. Top with the juice and stir briefly.
Bright red, this is rather festive in colour, with a strip of lime peel completing the picture. Rich, fruity and jammy to start, with plenty of berry flavours, followed by a light touch of sweetness. Clean, creamy notes are then followed by the deeper, herbal note of the rosemary, adding just a twist of extra flavour that doesn’t overpower the drink. Finally, there’s a long, refreshing, dry finish of cranberry.
What I really liked about this drink was the combination of rosemary and cranberry, which not only worked very well, but reminded me of lunch on Christmas Day, which is no mean feat.
#8) Prohibition Cocktail
40ml Bootlegger, 40ml grapefruit juice, 20ml Bottlegreen Elderflower Cordial
10ml lime juice
Shake everything together and strain into an ice-filled highball. Garnish with a lime slice.
Delicious, light and fruity; so many flavours that work so seamlessly together! It starts with zesty lime notes, which are followed by a sweeter lime flavour, reminding me of lime cheesecake or Key Lime Pie. The sharper grapefruit then comes into play, before a finish of fresh lime and slightly sweeter, floral elderflower. The Bootlegger appears throughout as a light creamy note and adds its distinct warmth to the finish. Delightful and refreshing.
Bootlegger is another very versatile spirit, which worked well with a whole variety of flavours, making it a useful ingredient in festive cocktails. It tended to add a pleasant creaminess to most drinks, plus a very welcome warmth on the finish. If you like vanilla and ice-cream, then you might also like to sip this neat, especially now that it’s got that bit colder and actual ice-cream might not be everyone’s first choice!
My favourite way of drinking it, though, was definitely the wonderful Prohibition Cocktail, with its vast array of flavours all working together to produce a fruity, creamy and zesty delight of a drink that I’d highly recommend trying. Maybe try one to celebrate a belated Repeal Day? Or, if you fancy going one stage further and celebrating the season in full 1920s style, why not visit the The Candlelight Club to see what they’re doing with Bootlegger over the holidays? Their Christmas Bootlegger’s Ball is on the 15th December.
– Mrs. B
Bootleger White Grain Spirit is available for around £20 for 70cl from The Whisky Exchange
* He says this was for a combination of reasons 1) ease of replicability 2) his friends Aaron’s (from TheGinIsIn, america’s Gin review Website) fondness for jam and gin cocktails.