Liam Rudden: A tale of cocktails and curious caves

The Caves, Blair Street
The Caves, Blair Street
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THERE was an orange tree in full bloom in one vault. The glow of the Northern Lights in another. While a third was entered through an upright freezer.

And let’s not forget the tattoo artist dispensing complimentary Sailor Jerry motifs in the Gentleman’s Lounge, nor the Hendrick’s Monteith Bar, where gin was served in china tea cups, complete with saucers, or even Prince Charlie’s Secret Cave, where my favourite cocktail of the night could be found, The Hootenanny.

Welcome to #WGSOnTour, the launch of Tales of the Cocktail, which came to Scotland for the very first time this week.

Distillers William Grant & Sons kicked off the week-long celebration of all things ‘cocktail’ by hosting the official opening party at The Caves.

Described as ‘the world’s premier series of cocktail festivals’ the event brings together the world’s best bartenders and spirit brands, highlighting what’s ‘now, new and next’ in the spirits industry.

At the opening bash, Capital cocktail lovers certainly entered the spirt of the occasion as did The Caves - arguably one of the city’s most intriguing venues - which had been transformed for the evening.

Taken over by Monkey Shoulder, a steam punk approach welcomed in the Oyster Vault - the one entered through a freezer, but only after your ‘Republic of Speyside’ passport had been duly stamped.

Inside, an automated, but cantankerous ‘Old Fashioned’ dispenser with a mind of its very own awaited. Luckily, a handy spanner lying nearby did the job. The Lazy Old Fashioned wasn’t half bad too.

Monkey Shoulder was just one of seven brands being showcased, cocktails it seems have never been bigger business, and an impressive and eclectic range paid testament to their ongoing appeal.

Similarly, the individual design of each vault was something else, not least the Reyka Balcony where there was the chance to lie back on a moss carpeted floor and watch the Aurora Borelais ebb and flow across the ceiling. Enchanting.

Then there was The Clandestine Curling Competition, which may have started on the wooden bar-tops of East London but for one night only was at home in the Hendrick’s Foundation Room.

Elsewhere, ice creams flavoured with The Balvenie were the order of the day.

In the Main Vault, dew rose from the floor of the Valley of the Deer, but it was the orange tree and a Glenfiddoch and Rhubarb liqueur cocktail that were the main attractions.

The Hootenanny, however, was impossible to beat. Fancy making your own? You’ll need Drambuie, cubed ice, two parts grapefruit juice, four mint leafs and three parts Weissbier.

Discovered in a Manhattan Whiskey bar, you lightly shake Drambuie, grapefruit juice and mint leafs together, then add beer to the shaker before straining over ice.

Garnish with a mint sprig.

Enjoy. Cheers.