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Monday, 16 July 2012

The Courvoisier Institute of Grand Cocktails

Ever since attending the extremely excellent 'History of Food', we have been in anticipation of the next Courvoisier event. Of course it helped that Bompas and Parr were in on the last one, but we still had high hopes when an invite to The Courvoisier Institute of Grand Cocktails arrived in our inboxes.

The confirmation email that arrived after our flurry of activity to book tickets was fittingly flamboyant, and told us under no uncertain terms that we needed to:
1. Bring a piece of fruit with our name on (this fruit was to represent us in some way).
2. Embody one of the key characteristics of Courvoisier: Creativity, wit, maturity, taste and character.

Ok then. I chose a passionfruit and M decided on a lime ("I'm sour."):

We arrived at the imposing marble building on Bloomsbury square surprisingly early. The place was pretty impressive. The bits that were not solid marble seemed to be oak panelling, all in all giving the impression of an old financial institution of such grandeur that they would never dare build nowadays.

After a short waiting time, we were ushered into our first room. It was full of fruit, complete with a couple of fruit sellers waxing lyrical about their nice oranges:"Pahnd, for a pahnd luv!"

There were also two nice gentlemen ladling fruit punch into jam jars for our delectation:

There was also an enormous block of ice which I got to chip away at for some unknown reason.
So after some hanging around, we were ushered into our next room, this time full of spices:

I nice Moroccan man talked to us incomprehensibly about spices and poetry for a while:

Before giving us each a sugar lump which would apparently come in useful later.

Another room, another experience: These two posh gents told us all about the Courvoisier maturation process and gave us each a test-tube of the amber nectar to take away. Thanks guys!

Next it was time for a bit of a song and dance. We were led into a ball room, complete with a Miss Haversham-esque decaying banquet, bonkers guests and eccentric host.
At one point M was grabbed by one of the dressed-up ladies and they disappeared into a cupboard. Well, of course I had to pursue so we both ended up a in small dark cupboard listening to the lady harp on about aromas. I was also relieved of my passion fruit, although it was eventually returned to me by another of the 'servants'.
Oh and did I mention that we were given champagne cocktails into which we deposited our sugar cube? Very nice.

Before moving on again, we were each given a coin by the servants and urged up the staircase to a little jazz bar. This nice lady gave us yet another drink served in a small glass beaker, in return for our coin:

Jazzing it up:

The bar:

The idea was that small groups were taken aside, blind folded and 'experimented' on while sipping their drinks. Our palettes were first cleansed with apple juice, followed by various smell tests (including horseradish) and a sensory test where we were subjected to various sensations whilst drinking your cocktail (tickled with a feather, brushed with course bristles or rubbed with a teddy-bear) and asked whether it heightened or distracted from the flavour. Interesting.

After quite some time hanging in the bar, eating Twiglets and *possibly* two small glass beakers finding their way into my bag, we were summoned to our last room: the Boardroom.

Here we were told of our success at becoming members of The Courvoisier Institute of Grand Cocktails (having displayed the necessary characteristics) and swore our allegiance on the Courvoisier books provided. We also took a swig of our test-tube for good measure.

And that was it! An interesting way to spend an evening and all quite well orchestrated too, although for most of it, it wasn't quite clear what we were supposed for be doing or why it had anything to do with Courvoisier - I missed something of a cohesive story.
Still, the cocktails were tasty and plentiful, even though I never really did understand what I was supposed to do with my passion fruit..

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