His hair had that slick freshly showered look. He looked spiffy with pulleys on his trousers, a red comb tucked in his back pocket and a smile to match. I was stuck on him in an instant. I pictured myself dressed in ruby colored threads walking into his ritzy joint and ordering top shelf poison.
Returning to the present from my film noir-ish reverie, trying to ignore the old school jazz playing in my head, I remembered I was in a class at Salone del Gusto and that is when Simone Caporale began to work his speakeasy magic. The place, London. The year, 1664.
Simone effortlessly led us through the history of old beer cocktails from London. We learned of possets, spiced ales served in a teapot like vessel. Butter beer (the Harry Potter fan in me squirmed with delight) was originally a licorice infused beer fortified with yolks and butter. Purl, an old timey version of the Italian spritz.
Then together we discovered the shrub. This curious little drink definitely made my favorite list, even if only because of its singular character. The concoction is a simple yet refreshing one. Choose a fruit and let it cure in sugar for a few days, strain the liquid off and mix it with an acidic vinegar. Add this shrub syrup base to a beer or rum of your choice. Although it sounds a bit strange…it was unexpectedly delicious. Try it for yourself and tell me what you think:30ml rice vinegar based shrub syrup 60ml aged rum juice from 1/2 lime top with wheat or rice based beer mandarin bitters
We then moved on to porter punch. A beverage that was designed to be a way for people to socialize at the bar. A punch bowl of sorts was often placed at one end of the bar and the barman created a show when mixing the ingredients. I do hope I am not misquoting the original recipe:1 part sour, 2 parts sweet 3 parts power and 4 parts weak.
The last cocktail was quite the spectacle. A little doozy called an ale flip. The original recipe involves beer, rum, and sugar (some versions include eggs). The fun part is watching the drink bubble of ‘flip’ out of its container thanks to a heated iron rod. The drink made me think of an old-fashioned eggnog with a bit of flair.
My favorite part about the entire workshop was Simone’s personality. His attention to detail, his obvious appreciation for traditional methods and his apparent dedication to entice customers in a way so reminiscent of bartenders of yore was downright delightful.
He has an air of mystery about him. Simone, so I heard through the grapevine is not even his real name. I am keeping my fingers crossed for future opportunities to learn more from Simone Caporale, hopefully at the Artesian in London or better yet his own bar. Perhaps by then I will also have a 1940’s style alter ego…name pending.
Bravo Simone! A class well done sir.