When news of Appletiser running a cocktail masterclass at Ascot Racecourse found it’s way to my inbox (thanks Viki!), I was all over it. Basically, if I’m willing to get myself out of bed at 8am on a Sunday for something, you know I’m expecting it to be pretty special. So I jumped aboard a train out of Waterloo with two of my fave partners in crime, Erica and Charley, for a day of tasty drinks, lots of fun and attempting to be ladylike. And at least two of those expectations were most definitely met.
We started the day off in classic #Bangarang style, with some GIN-IN-A-TINs for the train journey. Except Charley, who chose mojitos instead of gin. BLASPHEMY. Plus, MOJITO-IN-A-TIN definitely doesn’t have the same ring. Thankfully, she’s wonderful, so we forgave her. The train journey took an hour, although it felt like no time at all thanks to our constant chatting.
When we arrived at Ascot train station, it was a short walk to the Racecourse, during which the girls discovered I find it REALLY hard to walk uphill, talk and drink at the same time. That’s a story for another day though. We were there on The Prince’s Countryside Fund Raceday, rather than just the main Ascot racedays, so there was loads going on all around the site.
We also had a mild palaver trying to find our way around the HUGENESS that was the building we were in, seriously, I’ve never seen so many escalators in my life. It was also VERY BRITISH, with bunting and proper English gentlemen dressed up in fancy attire giving us directions.
But when we entered the private box Appletiser had booked out and been passed a much-appreciated glass of fizz, it was totally worth the adventure. Up on the sixth floor, we had an amazing view – not just of the course itself, but the whole surrounding area. AND, far in the distance, we managed to spy The Shard. I might have waved.
On each table were an assortment of cocktail-related bits and pieces including shakers, sieves, fruit, dehydrated apple, various shapes of glass and um…some eggs. Don’t worry, all becomes clear later. The table also provided the perfect flat lay shot. Basically, the whole day was a serious Instagram dream.
Our host for the day was Richard Woods, an award-winning mixologist and Head of Spirit and Cocktail Development at Duck And Waffle and Sushi Samba. And also, as plenty of other blog posts will likely inform you, a rather handsome chap. Appletiser (the name comes from a combo of ‘Apple’ and ‘Appetiser’, fact fans) are celebrating turning 50 this year, and to celebrate, Richard has created some bespoke Appletiser cocktails and mocktails. Which we got to have a go at creating. And of course, tasting…
Did I mention how Instagram-friendly this event was already? Shot of my dreams. Oh, and the cocktail tasted VERY nice too. Our first cocktail of the day was the Pine Needle Hi Ball. Richard told us that it was an apertif style drink in the realm of Aperol Spritz et al, but to be honest, I could happily drink this all day on a picnic table in the sunshine.
And it’s also SO easy to make – just fill a glass with ice and mix 50ml dry vermouth with 2 dashes of lemon bitters and 10ml of sugar syrup inside it. Fill to about just over halfway with some Appletiser, stir about a bit and then add the rest of the Appletiser. Finally, give your pine needle a smack over the back of your hand and pop it into the glass.
As a side note – finding pine needles might be a bit tricky – they look mega fabulous in the glass, but don’t worry if you don’t have one casually lying around in the kitchen as it’ll taste just as satisfying without it. Promise.
Up next was the cocktail that Erica was incredibly excited about, as it involved IPA reduction – the Hoppy Ever After. Yeah, see what they did there? IPA reduction is basically what it says on the tin – an India Pale Ale reduced down. Thanks to the martini and gin double whammy, this one definitely gave a stronger hit than the Pine Needle Hi-Ball, and despite the IPA it didn’t taste beer-y at all. Instead, it had a lovely fruitiness, provided by a mixture of the hops and the Apple & Pomegranate Appletiser.
This one’s a bit lengthier to make as you need to do the IPA reduction first – although it was easy for us, as Rich was kind enough to prep ours in advance. Once you’ve made the reduction though, you can pop it in the fridge and it stays good for 4-5 days. That’s almost a week of cocktails.
For the IPA reduction: Heat one 330ml bottle of IPA beer over a medium heat, until it’s reduced down to two thirds of its original volume. Add in 10g of sugar and mix until it’s dissolved. Allow to cool, then whisk to remove any pesky extra froth.
For the cocktail: Pop 35ml gin, 15ml Martini Blanco, your IPA reduction and 35ml Apple & Pomegranate Appletiser into a cocktail shaker with some ice cubes and give it a good stir. Strain into a Martini glass, and you’ll live hoppily ever after.
The final cocktail that Richard showed us was the Orchard Fizz, and it was certainly a looker. This one’s where those eggs came into play – I’d totally never even think about putting eggs into a drink but it really worked. Even though I had a slight struggle with the egg white separation and ended up with Rich giving me a ‘here’s one I made earlier’ ready-seperated egg. And then spilling my cocktail mix all over the floor. Thankfully, the other girls fared better than me, and on tasting their concoctions, this is definitely a fruity, yummy drink to impress with.
Wanna have a go yourself?
Pour one egg white (Richard recommended you do this first in case of any egg-related cock-ups. My wording there, not his), 35ml gin, 25ml apple liqueur, 10ml fresh lemon juice, 10ml sugar syrup and 3 drops tartaric acid solution into your cocktail shaker, pop the lid on firmly and SHAKE, SHAKE, SHAKE SHAKE-A-SHAKE IT for about 15 seconds. Pop in a scoop of ice cubes and shake again for about 10 seconds. Strain the cocktail into the glass, top up with some Apple & Pomegranate Appletiser and garnish with a dehydrated Granny Smith apple slice and pomegranate seeds.
(Dehydrated apple slices are a bit pricey, so the garnish isn’t essential to the cocktail and you can go without – but they do make it look hella cute.)
After watching a master at work and attempting to copy Richard’s cocktails, the tables were turned and the students became the masters. Well, probably not quite. After our gin-in-a-tins, glasses of prosecco and three cocktails tasted, it was over to us to whip up our own concoctions.
After five minutes of chatting, we realised we still hadn’t picked our base alcohol, let alone worked out what we were going to do with it. Bloggers, eh? We managed to decide on what I describe as ‘assorted booze’ and Erica better describes as gin (well, of course), apple and pomegranate Appletiser, peach liqueur, and champagne. Finally, to add a bit of extra pizzaz, we got creative and added the flowers from our table and a sprinkling of pomegranate seeds.
(After my Orchard Fizz fiasco, I was given the v. important task of de-seeding the pomegranates. Which I think I did rather well, as the pomegranate spots on my dress will attest to).
Unfortunately, our concoction didn’t win but we did get a nod for appearance – which I most definitely contributed to with my vital seeds, so I’ll consider that a win. Plus, we got to drink them afterwards. Definitely a win.
After a fair bit of booze consumption, lunch was welcome and probably necessary. And also, very tasty. Steak pie with perfect pastry, chicken, mash and veg. Feeling like a fabulous VIP? That too. We spent some time hanging out (with more drinks) on the box balcony, watching the horses and cheering excessively. I also discovered that gin and Appletiser is an AMAZING idea and will now be consumed at every possible drinking opportunity.
As if Appletiser hadn’t spoilt us enough already… Once lunch was out of the way and we’d all just about settled down from the excitement of Charley winning six quid (DRINKS ALL ROUND) and I’d stopped being annoyed at Pinky Brown who’d let me down, our hostess walked into the room with tiers of cakes and adorable little sandwiches. Although my belly was still pretty full up from my second helping of pie (sorry not sorry), I managed to wolf down a chocolate torte and a red velvet cake. Because it’s a Sunday, and afternoon tea is what Sundays are about, right?
Before hopping on the train home in a boozy haze, me being forever the child insisted we go via the petting zoo to meet some goats. And bunnies. And BABY GUINEA PIGS. So cute.
Ascot isn’t necessarily a place I’d think to head to normally, but I had probably one of the best days out I’ve had in a So THANKYOU Appletiser for being amazing hosts, Richard Woods for teaching us some tricks of the trade and my cocktail buddies Erica and Charley for being excellent company. I’ll definitely be attempting some of these cocktails to fancy up my next housewarming – let me know if you give ’em a go!