If there’s one thing I like doing it’s learning about new things, and I like it even more when it’s booze-and-yummy-food-fuelled. To this end, we spent a fabulously enjoyable evening at Protein’s Shoreditch HQ last Tuesday, at their first Alcohol Alchemy Academy (+++ points for alliterative title). Protein are a band of terribly clever people who analyse and forecast trends, as well as producing an excellent daily feed and putting on regular events in their gallery space.
After nibbles and warming cognac cocktails served in teacups, we split into groups and rotated around talks by the three guests: spirits aficionado Alex Kammerling, product designer Sabine Marcelis and Ash Millard, owner of North-London craft ale house The Southampton Arms.
We started with Alex Kammerling, an artist and bartender with 15 years’ involvement in the spirits industry. He started developing his own drink six years ago, getting inspiration from ancient Chinese medicine’s natural botanical ingredients with a view to making a healthier spirit — perhaps even one that doesn’t ever give you a hangover. The resultant ginseng-based beverage, packaged in its alluringly medicinal bottle, defies classification: part-bitters, part-liqueur and made using the same process as gin. After Alex explained the ingredients and process in getting to his final product, we sampled the spirit neat and then mixed into a cocktail.
I don’t usually experiment much with different spirits and I’m certainly not a fan of gin, but this stuff is different: aromatic, bittersweet, citrusy (thanks to fresh grapefruit rind in the mix) and surprisingly easy to drink due to its low 33% abv. I particularly loved it mixed into a cocktail with apple juice and ginger beer. Amazing. I’ll definitely be buying a bottle for impromptu supping.
Next we had a presentation from New Zealander Sabine Marcelis, who developed this beautiful sculptural wine home-brewing kit called House Wine. It’s a reaction to her realisation that traditional homebrew kits are usually ugly plastic bins hidden away in the garage, so you miss all the ‘magic’ happening. House Wine is designed to be a self-contained system for small-scale home brewing which is pretty enough to be out on display.
The wine ferments in the top bulb and is then siphoned into the lower one for further conditioning and bottling. All the other kit needed – hydrometers, cheesecloths and a corking device – is neatly tucked into a drawer in the base. We sampled one of her homemade Merlot grape and elderflower wines, which was somewhere between a red and rose and very delicious. Sabine is currently looking into putting House Wine into full production.
Finally, a talk and tasting of a range of beers from Ash Millard of Kentish Town’s Southampton Arms. This boozer only serves British-made craft beers from small breweries, and only ever buy one barrel of each beer so stock changes nightly. We sampled brews from Brodies and Dark Star and a coffee porter, and discussed the massive renaissance and appreciation of craft beers, especially in London.
The night was rounded off with more food, more beers and more cocktails. And no, I wasn’t hungover the next day, praise be to Kammerling’s. Keep an eye on Protein’s feed more more upcoming events, and you can see their (superior) photos of the night here.