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George Clooney & Rande Gerber’s Casamigos Tequila launches in Bristol

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Tequila is the marmite of the spirit world. People seem to either love it or hate it.

It’s no secret that tequila is often overlooked when it comes to more mainstream cocktail bases such as vodka or rum, while cognac or whiskey usually call dibs on the preferred after-dinner nightcap.

But fear not – George Clooney has come to save the day and rescue us from our tequila naivety, and who’d say no to that? (Is there anything this man can’t do?)

Casamigos Tequila, owned by Clooney, his long-time friend, bar and restaurant mogul Rande Gerber and Discovery Land Company CEO and founder Michael Meldman, is trying to “re-educate” us on this largely unappreciated spirit. The impure tequila (not 100% agave) we shot at 3am on a Friday “out-out” session is, they say, not worth one’s salt – literally.

Casamigos encourages us to think differently about tequila, and I have to say, the liquor is smooth.

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When the brand launched in Bristol this week I was lucky enough to sample their three small batches (Blanco, Reposado and Añejo) at The Ivy Clifton Brasserie.

My husband, who came along to taste test too (it’s a hard life for him), said he was seriously impressed I didn’t make my scrunched up tequila face upon sipping.

But no scrunching in sight and no mad dash for lime or salt either.

In fact, brand manager Natalia Garcia said: “The salt and lime is often used to cover up the taste of impure tequila which is mixed with other liquor and doesn’t taste good. Casamigos is created by 100% pure Blue Weber Agave, so no salt or lime required. It’s a completely different experience altogether.”

Indeed, Oprah Winfrey has called it “the smoothest, the best” tequila in the world when she sampled it.

Casamigos brand ambassador Jack Brooksbank –  also long-term boyfriend of Princess Eugenie – said the company had received an “amazing reaction” so far from the public.

“The tequila is really refreshing, very easy to drink and is something you can definitely just enjoy over ice if you want to do so. It’s come first in all the blind tasting tests which is a testament to its high quality.”

Launched initially back in 2013 and in the UK in 2015, Casamigos is named after Gerber and Clooney’s side-by-side houses in Mexico, and roughly translates to “House of Friends.”  It was originally created out of Clooney and Gerber’s desire to enjoy the best-tequila with family and friends. They never anticipated it would become the global success it is today.

“We worked on the creation of Casamigos Tequila with our master distiller in Jalisco, Mexico, for years and held many blind tastings until we knew we got it right. We’ve been drinking Casamigos with friends and family for over six years,” said Clooney.

So, how exactly is Casamigos tequila produced? Well, it’s made from hand-selected 100% blue weber agaves. When the agaves reach maturity after seven years, their sugar-rich hearts (piñas) are cooked and crushed; the extracted juice is then fermented and, finally, distilled.

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After harvest, the agave piñas are roasted in traditional brick ovens for seventy-two hours before undergoing an extra slow fermentation process over an additional eighty hours, nearly double the industry standard. The Blanco rests for two months, while the Reposado and Añejo are aged for seven and 14 months in American white oak barrels.

Before going into the bottle, each batch is tasted and approved by Gerber and Clooney. Each batch is then numbered and signed by the two men.

On the website, the 750ml Blanco is £50, Reposado £55and Añejo £60.

Casamigos will be coming soon to Bristol so watch this space.

Get sipping!

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New Year Menu Twist at Woky Ko

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Woky Ko launch new menu

Nestled in Wapping Wharf on Bristol’s buzzing harbourside, Woky Ko: CARGO swung open its doors in late-October, 2016 – capturing attention with a bold menu of delicate flavours. Talented chef-owner Larkin Cen has recently added to the family with Park St’s Woky Ko: Kauto, and the two combined offer some of the finest Asian cuisine you’ll find anywhere in the South West.

Woky Ko: Kauto

Woky Ko: Kauto has perhaps become the flagship venue, offering a little more space and a stronger restaurant feel than its waterside cousin. Sleek lines, muted tones and a contemporary feel combine to create a warm and welcoming space, with a row of high stools offering hungry diners that intimate ‘kitchen table’ experience.

There’s a strong crossover of influence and flavour between the Cargo and Kauto menus – with dishes like noodles, sharing sides and baos featuring in both. But with a larger kitchen, Kauto offers a fuller range.

Photo credit: Larkin Ken

Ramen recommendations (Ramenations? No…)

On my most recent visit I broke with previous form and tried the Woky Ko ramen; a large bowl of steaming noodles swimming in an umami (look it up) broth based on the saltier shio recipe. Larkin has spent hours perfecting the balances of salt, soy and spices across his dishes, and, with delicate jamon bone and rich roasted garlic, Woky Ko ramen is simply stunning.

But yes, I do have form here. On my first Kauto visit I fell a bit in love with the KFC ramen. This show-stopping blend of Korean spices leaves you slurping from the bottom of the bowl – perhaps not very fitting for a stylish restaurant setting, but it’s all too easy to get carried away… 

Sichuan ox cheek and hot and sour aged tofu complete Kauto’s ramen offerings, complemented by a mouth-watering selection of sides like onglet steak, tiger prawn toast, crispy duck pancakes and tenderstem broccoli that will change the way you look at greens forever.

Photo credit: Paolo Ferla

New Year deals from Monday to Friday

Woky Ko’s new weekday deals started up recently, offering diners a little added value for money from 4.30pm to 6.30pm Monday to Friday.

Down on the harbourside, Woky Ko Cargo is offering either chicken vermicelli noodles or edamame bean and sunflower seed yakisoba noodles plus a Tsingtao beer for £10.

And on Park St, just opposite the Wills Memorial Building, Woky Ko Kauto’s early-evening deal brings you a free beer, glass of wine or soft drink with any of the four ramen dishes.

For an idea of the dishes available, check out Woky Ko’s sample menu. And to read more of @cjcallaghan’s write-ups and reviews, nabber over to his Best of Bristol page and fill your boots.

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Behind the Scenes at Thatchers Cider

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I have a confession to make… I’m a cider snob. I like it dry or medium-dry, and cloudy – with the heady scent of fermented apples still brimming in the glass. The kind of cider that’s been greasing the wheels of agriculture and industry in Somerset for centuries. Not for me, the sugary, sweet, supermarket stuff… I’ll have a pint of real zider, and you can leave the twigs and leaves in, too.

Spanning four generations in the same family, Thatchers is our region’s most famous cider-maker – and their range of produce is broad. Although most of their ciders are slightly over-processed for my liking, they do still make cider the traditional way. I’d say a visit to their orchards at Myrtle Farm in the heart of Somerset’s cider country is a must-do for any cider-lover in Bristol.

Exploring the orchards

Image courtesy of Natacha the Franglaise

My recent visit began in the Thatchers Exhibition Orchard, where manager Chris oversees over 450 different apple varieties. The weather conditions in Somerset offer the perfect conditions for growing apples – with cold winters allowing the trees to lie dormant, and temperate springs promoting bee pollination and blossom-growth. True to form for this time of year, it was pissing with rain as we strolled among the lines of fruit-laden trees – but the apples like a little of that, too.

Hearing how Chris and his team fuse new apple buds to young root stocks to produce varieties like Dabinett and Jonagold was insightful, and his ability to harness the power of nature to produce the finest harvests made for fascinating listening. Our tour continued past the huge apple vats and ancient fermentation tanks to the state-of-the-art canning plant, and it was a joy to hear the various Thatchers team members share their passion for the product.

To the tasting…

Thatchers brought a selection of their lovely cider to Bristol a few months ago, so this was a fortunate second tasting for me. We sampled diverse brews including Redstreak, Old Rascal, Vintage, Haze, Katy, and more – each offering a different balance of scent and flavour to the last. It turns out Old Rascal is the team’s overall favourite Thatchers’ cider – a very fine drop indeed.

Lunch at The Railway Inn

Image courtesy of Bristol Bloggers

The Railway Inn is Thatchers’ local pub, with a broad selection of beers and ciders alongside a full menu of delicious dishes sourced, of course, from in and around Somerset. The pub has been lovingly converted from its original stone structure to a warm and welcoming space – with traditional snug, open bar area and stylish oak-beamed dining room. There’s garden seating for summer visitors, and a seasonal menu that makes the very most of the region’s natural produce.

Take a tour

If all this talk of apples and cider has got your taste buds tingling, you can find details on Thatchers’ guided tours and tastings on their website here. October is Cider and Perry Month, so now’s the ideal time to celebrate and support our local orchards and cider-makers. Harvest season is upon us too, so if you visit Thatchers there’s a good chance you’ll get to see the trucks arriving from across Somerset – their fruity haul ready for pressing.

If you head over, do book a table at The Railway Inn – it makes a good visit great. I can recommend the Thatchers Gold-battered fish and chips, and the sticky toffee pud hits the spot. Cider’s not bad ‘n’ all. Cheers!

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For more of @cjcallaghan’s reviews and write-ups, check out his Best of Bristol author page.

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Pata Negra Revamp Kitchen And Menu

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Pata Negra Steps It Up for the Autumn Season

Bristol’s proud independent streak is well-documented, and we’re lucky to have so many vibrant and exciting bars, restaurants and cafes to choose from in this city.

If you enjoy visiting and supporting Bristol’s varied independent venues, it’s likely you’ll have a list of places old and new that you’re just waiting for the right time to tick off.

The Ox on Corn Street had been sitting on my must-visit list for months when I went last month, and I was very, very impressed.

But from the style-savvy team behind The Milk Thistle and Hyde & Co, what else could I have expected?

Also on Corn Street, and also run by the same talented team, Pata Negra is another venue I’d been curious about for a while — but on those occasions when I’d peered in past the door, I’d never felt encouraged in. Despite the great location and classical décor, it somehow just didn’t feel tempting.

Fresh changes at Pata Negra

That’s all changed now. In the latest round of developments at Pata Negra, the kitchen has been brought up from the basement to take pride of place at the forefront of the room — and the difference is striking.

You step through the doorway to skilled chefs preparing delicious dishes in their new open-plan setting, with a fine haunch of cured Ibérico ham hanging from the wall.

Further towards the back of the room, welcoming window seats and banks of plush red-leather benches offer the perfect settings for intimate gatherings of friends.

A menu re-vamp for the autumn season

The engine-room of the restaurant is now fully on show, and a menu re-vamp has changed things up for autumn. Diners can expect seasonal twists on authentic Spanish classics alongside new dishes created to bring the best out of the kitchen’s open grills.

Meanwhile, the wine and sherry list showcases the best of the Iberian Peninsula — the perfect accompaniment to the delicious tapas dishes, fresh seafood and decadent desserts on offer.

For full details on Pata Negra’s refreshed autumn menu, head over to the website here.

For more of @cjcallaghan’s reviews and write-ups, check out his Best of Bristol author page.

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