Barber-shop themed speakeasy Panda & Sons has been chosen by a global gin brand as one of only ten worldwide locations where experimental cocktail-lovers can indulge in a unique sensory experience.
And an honour of the annual toast to the nation’s favourite tipple – International Gin and Tonic Day – I headed to into the caverns of Queen Street to try it out.
Led into a Vietnamese-style “jungle room”, created by bartenders Sian Buchan, Amy Jacobs and Kealan Hailliday, the private room tucked into the heart of the underground bar is undoubtedly different.
Panda & Sons already does “concept” well – if in doubt check out the Tiki Takeaway, a cocktail with noodles in a Chinese takeaway box complete with chopsticks.
But the Cassiblanca offered as part of Bombay Sapphire’s “A Gin of Ten Journeys” takes the immersive experience to a whole new level.
Given a brief to celebrate one of the ten botanicals that make up Bombay Sapphire gin, Panda & Sons were tasked with featuring the Cassia bark, the flavour of cinnamon which comes from the Cassia tree.
And sat beneath crawling fronds and bamboo swathed walls, the Cassiblanca arrives in a vessel designed to resemble a Cassia tree.
Embracing the Vietnamese theme, where Cassia trees grow, your glass is a shallow noodle bowl, pre-filled with tonic and your task is to collect your own gin which trickles quite literally from the branches of the tree.
A pump hidden in the “bark” keeps the gin flowing through the branches, ready for collection until it’s finished.
Bartender Kealan said creating the experience had been a lot of fun. “It’s been really great to think about how to create a complete experience and not just a drink. We had to think about how the room felt, smelt and looked as well as the taste.”
And the undoubted highlight of the Cassiblanca is the electric daisy pinned to the side of the noodle bowl.
Also known as a buzz button the little flower, used as a medicinal remedy in various parts of the world, is designed to replicate the natural numbing qualities of cinnamon.
Kealan instructs a taste of the gin, vermouth, coconut, rum and cinnamon sugar blended cocktail.
“Then unclip the flower, chew it and take another sip.” he directs.
I won’t ruin the surprise, but safe to say the experience is worth a try before time runs out later this month and undoubtedly hits the brief of “multisensory”. Booking is essential.