By Nina Koo-Seen-Lin.
It started with a Balans Bellini and ended with a delectable Daiquiri.
‘I did five in one night!’ I proudly crowed the next morning while in the office. I was nursing my head with a cup of black filter coffee, but still smiling because I, Miss Nina Koo-Seen-Lin, had done five in one night. cocktails, that is (minds out the gutter, please!)
For Miss Nina Koo-Seen-Lin, last Tuesday was an evening devoted to the Cocktail Making Class at Balans in Earls Court. The mission: to learn the talent and tricks of the trade to rival Tom Cruise in the movie, Cocktail. The outcome: five beautiful cocktails, drunk to the dregs and a very woozy journey home for one Miss Nina Koo-Seen-Lin.
Balans already had a buzzing atmosphere at 6:30pm, a brilliant food menu (just one glance at the starters and I was salivating), a great selection of wines, and a bar stocked with bottles of every spirit imaginable. Balans is one of those.
I perched by the bar not just because I was desperate for alcohol (although the Bellini waiting for me next to my cocktail making set, along with the food platter of toasted pitta slices, dips and olives, was rather inviting) but because I was one of the students in the cocktail making class. If you’ve ever thought you might like to take an evening class, this might be it.
By the end of my tutorial I knew how to mix up the perfect Bloody Mary cocktail, muddle the mint in a Mojito cocktail, mash out all the juice from limes for a Cosmopolitan or Margarita cocktail, and make a Martini French cocktail. Along the way I picked up one or two historical facts about the tipples I’d made, courtesy of mixologist, Dylan. I forgot them all. Luckily the beautiful blokes at Balans (they really are stunningly handsome and have the gentlemanly manners to match) printed off a handy blurb about each cocktail (in chronological order) and their recipes.
Bloody Mary: Started life out as the Oyster cocktail or Tomato Juice cocktail. It was a virgin cocktail (ie free from alcohol) until randy George Jessel came along and spiked the drink with vodka in the 1930s. If you make it with gin it becomes a Red Snapper. Tequila turns it into a Bloody Maria.
Mojito: A Cuban drink that’ll turn you into a suave British spy (James Bond made the drink fashionable back in 2002 when he drank one in Die Another Day).
Cosmoplitan: “I’ve got love for you if you were born in the 80s!” So says Calvin Harris. In that case, he loves the Cosmopolitan, a concoction thought to have been created in the decade that also gave us Pac-Man, New Kids on the Block and Fraggle Rock.
Snack interval including platters of calamari, spring rolls, and fried dumplings, light bites for the lightweights. Always accepted. Always gobbled up in minutes.
Margarita: Nobody really knows the origin of this cocktail's name. Options include a Tequila drinking showgirl or a Dallas socialite. It is the most called-for cocktail from the sour family of drinks. Rimming the glass tumbler with salt causes all sorts of tittering innuendos between students.
French Martini: An imposter of a Martini! Chambord, the French liqueur company, created the drink for a world wide promotion. As a result it kick-started the flavoured Martini revolution in the 90s (the less sophisticated made do with alco-pops).
And there we have it. My five in one night. And it only cost £20pp (that’s a four quid per cocktail people!). And because my class were all A Graders we were each rewarded with a strawberry Daiquiri. It was beautifully refreshing but it did add an extra shade of pink to my already flushed face.
The cocktail class is for everyone: groups of girlfriends, hen parties, dates or those wanting to learn some impressive Tom Cruise skills. Well, it was either the cocktail class or the how-to-hang-of-a-cliff-edge-with-no-harness class. It was a Tuesday, after all.
To discover more cocktail classes in London, click here.