After four years of bestriding the jellymongering world like Colossi, Sam Bompas and Harry Parr are hankering for a change. Although best known for their extraordinary jelly-based creations (think UV-sensitive jelly, runway installations and architecturally-inspired jelly buildings), Sam and Harry’s eponymous company has also been responsible for some unbelievable alcoholic creations; after all, Bompas & Parr invented the breathable cloud of G&T, and once flooded a Grade I-listed building with four tonnes of Courvoisier punch. In short, never was there a twosome better suited to writing a cocktail book.
Although the medieval splendour surrounding the launch of Cocktails with Bompas & Parr was more than a little memorable, the thing which will stay with me was being greeted with an ether cocktail. Ether was a popular cocktail ingredient during Prohibition as it was intoxicating but not quite legally defined as alcohol, and the B&P boys have brought it back with a vengeance in their signature cocktail: champagne with an ether-soaked strawberry bobbing drunkenly through it. So, medicinal-smelling glass of fizz in one hand (and another in the other, if I’m honest), I set off to find out how Bompas & Parr throw a party…
The answer, it turns out, is: like no one living. For one night only, an unprepossessing Southwark courtyard became a beautifully orchestrated banquet as Bompas & Parr realised some of the ideas which had been previously turned down by safety-conscious clients. The ether cocktails were one such innovation, as was the antique pill machine which churned out sadly inactive (but very tasty) chilli and lime flavoured pills all night. Not even the bathroom escaped a makeover – and once you’ve entered a ‘Glitter Snake Pit’ festooned with glinting panpipes which hiss and slither at you, conventional ablutions will always seem a little bit dull. There was even a specially crafted porter bong hanging from one side of the miniature castle.
After sampling the wide variety of Hendrick’s Gin cocktails (my favourite Evelyn Waugh’s ‘Noonday Reviver’, a potent mixture of gin, stout and ginger beer) and awkwardly nibbling a ‘medieval kebab’ of meltingly soft grilled lamb on flatbread, it was finally time for the masters’ arrival – of course, on a bejewelled horse, clutching a goblet from which they produced fabulous prizes (well, winning raffle tickets) for those present. The most envious looks went to the lucky winner of a copy of Cocktails with Bompas & Parr, its glossy green exterior testament to B&P’s trademark fascination with presentation.
But don’t go thinking that the book is all style over substance – much like their first, Jelly with Bompas & Parr, Cocktails is a true feast of fascinating hints and tips for the aspiring home barman, as well as a host of recipes for revamped classic cocktails, innovative bar snacks and brand new drinks ideas. You’ll learn about the history of cocktails, pick up tips on the fine art of sabrage and even learn how to make your own ‘Buckfast Tonic Wine’. It’s a perfectly demystified primer for the uninitiated but still offers enough complexity for seasoned mixologists – and at a startlingly reasonable £14.99, you’ll earn the cost back by the time you’ve made two or three cocktails at home instead of buying them. Head to Waterstone’s, WHSmith, Amazon and pretty much every other retailer we checked, but make sure you pass an off licence on your way home…
Cocktails with Bompas & Parr (Anova, £14.99).
Bompas & Parr are judges for the Young British Foodies initiative, scouting every pocket of Britain to embrace the new culinary personalities breaking boundaries in the food and drink world. For more information, visit the website.
Article photography (c) David Mason