Balloons, Planets and the Kray Twins: An evening at Cocktail Trading Co.
The imaginative presentation of CTC's newest array of cocktails is a perfect compliment to some wacky ideas and even wackier flavours
When was the last time you drank vodka out of a planet? Or whiskey out of an egg? Chances are - if you're anything like the average bar-goer - such eccentricities have never been a part of your night out.
However, tucked away near Shoreditch in chic East London sits the Cocktail Trading Company, where acclaimed bartenders Olly Brading, Andy Mil and Elliot Ball have crafted one of the most bizarre yet enthralling cocktail menus the city has seen.
Launched in June, the new menu takes the award-winning might of CTC's bar staff and expresses it through balanced, delicate flavours, tongue-in-cheek folkloric references, and impeccably crafted apparatus.
Aesthetically, few bars in the country go to such lengths to please. As cocktails arrive at your table served in everything from tissue boxes to hot air balloons to seashells, the visual prowess of these drinks are something to behold, at times both frighteningly elaborate (the "Scofflaw"), and other times awfully pretty (the "Blue Moon").
Carefully designed so as to conjure imagery or stimulate emotions, the flavours are where these fairytale cocktails really come to life. The wonderfully tart-but-sweet Toreador No 4 - an engrossing mix of tequila, habanero-apricot sherbert and spiced corn horchata - is a good place to start.
From here, the highlights are many and varied. Be sure to try the complex, subtle Coquetier, complete with a rich cognac offset by dashes of absinthe water, and the Blue Moon, whose primary lingering flavour is - no joke - shiitake mushrooms.
The Scofflaw too is a delight, and served in a remarkably painstaking contraption. A big, well-built drink that packs a satisfying punch, it sits in a rocks glass, on top of which is precariously perched an almost scaffold-like frame housing a magnifying glass and a photo of infamous gangsters Ronnie and Reggie Kray, natives of the area.
According to CTC, the drink's mix of Glenmorangie Lasanto and pomegranate and sesame pruno "skirmishes and brawls on the palate, conjuring an encounter with the Kray twins on a rainy day outside a run-down pub".
However, it is without doubt the Jupiter Cocktail that steals the show here. Despite the daunting planet-themed presentation, there is nothing intimidating about the composition of this cocktail. The firm, elegant Kaffir Aylesbury Duck Vodka, hailing from Canada, is wrapped in a fruity framework of orange juice, martini rubino and apricot-ginger brew, lending a gratifyingly intricate bang to the traditional Screwdriver cocktail.
No stone is left unturned at CTC, and a special mention should also go to the menu, jammed full of cute and often hilarious sketches and poems to match the extravagant imbibing experience.
For an amusing, surprising and ultimately satisfying evening, you can do far worse than CTC - a cosy, mahogany-laden cove, not only of delectable drinks, but also of a bar staff whose pride in their intricate work is as infectious as the flavours they have created. Expect the unexpected.