Central London

Published on June 18th, 2014 | by Gavin


Reverend JW Simpson Cocktail Masterclass, Fitzrovia

Reverend JW Simpson Cocktail Masterclass, Fitzrovia Gavin

Summary: Drinks are the focus, everything else is secondary


Spirited Sermons

Often seen as the slightly more subdued cousin of the neighbouring Soho district, Fitzrovia is slowly shaking that reputation with a host of trendy venues around Charlotte Street including Pied a Terre, Salt Yard, and Bam-Bou.  Another venue that’s slowly becoming a favoured hangout whenever I’m in that neck of the woods is Reverend JW Simpson, a hidden cocktail bar on Goodge Street.

Owned by another of Fitzrovia’s established bars Bourne & Hollingsworth, Reverend JW Simpson is a unique basement bar that was the home of a respectable preacher up until 1987.  In 2012 it was converted into the bar that stands there now, complete with original 60’s wallpaper, creaky staircase and furniture that looks like it could have been salvaged from the Titanic.  Granted, it doesn’t sound very glamorous, but that’s all part of the appeal of Rev JW; the drinks are the focus and everything else is secondary.

The cocktail menu is one of the most unusual in London, which is an extremely difficult feat considering the amount of weird and wacky cocktail bars around.  Unlike some that use eyebrow raising ingredients like popping candy or hay smoked asparagus syrup, they prefer to use rare spirits and liqueurs to develop their drinks.  The likes of Olde English Mead wine, port, and plant liqueurs are all common features you’ll find in their drinks; and is a big part of the bar’s continued success.

Dino Rev JW Simpson

To showcase just how good the drinks are, I was fortunate enough to attend one of their monthly cocktail masterclasses where a different spirit takes centre stage every month.  This month, it was the turn of Summer Brandy.  Our charismatic Scottish host Dino begins by giving a brief history on the spirit and describes it as “more diverse than whisky”, which raises a few eyebrows from the small group of us in attendance.  He clarifies the point by stating that, by definition, any strong alcoholic beverage distilled from fermented fruit is technically a brandy; so this can include pisco, eau de vie, and schnapps, as well as the more conventional Cognac or Armagnac.

We are due to sample four brandies and cocktails in the class; starting with pisco from Peru, to Somerset cider brandy, Cognac from France, and finally Brandy de Jerez from Spain.  A truly global tasting, and makes a good change to the tastings I attend which are usually a guise to push sales of a particular brand.  Dino’s knowledge is also second to none and expertly guides us through the tasting of each drink and why they chose to create each cocktail which goes with the spirit.

My favourite of the four?  Most definitely the good old English cider brandy which tastes just like a glass of apple crumble.  The Meadow Cobbler cocktail made with rose water and meadowsweet syrup compliments the flavours perfectly, creating a great summer long drink.

Meadow Cobbler

If you are interested in more than just drinking cocktails, Reverend JW Simpson’s classes give real insight into the base ingredients for the most popular spirits used by bartenders.  The next class takes place on 6th August and focuses on Vermouth, priced £25 per person.

To buy tickets for the next masterclass, visit http://www.revjwsimpson.com/

Reverend JW Simpson, 32 Goodge Street, W1T 2QJ

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About the Author

Born and raised in Croydon, South London, Gavin is a lover of cocktails, a passionate foodie, and a self-proclaimed ‘dancing god’. A (relatively) normal guy that decided to start blogging about his experiences around the city he loves.

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