Blow the Budget, August 2021: The Clumsies (Athens)
Once a month a member of The Cabinet is given a budget to blow on something drink related, and then to report back.
It’s gonna be a two pronged review process by two woefully under qualified drinkers… what could possibly go wrong. You’ve got Alex, Designer at The Cabinet, and his partner, Serena.
23:00 - After a nail-biting conversation at the front door that nearly saw us denied entrance because of our covid vaccination status, we were taken to our table in a shabby chic breezy courtyard, an oasis from the 37°c heat outside (at 11:00 pm!)
As a primarily whiskey and dark rum drinker, I decided to challenge myself with poisons I would usually avoid, enter: mezcal, vodka and the dreaded tequila.
#1. The Conch - 10 EURO
Otto’s Athens Vermouth, Vida Mezcal, Ouzo Adolfo, Salicornia, Oregano - sweet with a hint of sourness towards the end, long taste of vermouth with a really interesting herby finish. 6.5/10 solid cocktail.
#2. Seasonal Daiquiri (Sweet and Sour) - 9 EURO
Bacardi Carta Blanca Rum, Apple, Pear, Cherry - slightly punchy and sour with a sweet finish. Strong taste of apple, subtle cherry, can’t note the pear.
9/10 alcoholic but not overpowering.
#3. Aegean Negroni - 10 EURO
The Clumsies Old Tom Gin, Ambrato Vermouth, Campari, Fennel Seeds, Diktamus.
I’m not a big fan of the so called bartender’s favourite, the infamous Negroni, but I was open to being surprised by Time Out’s best Cocktail 2019. I was not. Negroni’s are still not my thing. 3/10. Upon reflection 2/10
#4. Sangre Y Arena (Fizzy) - 10 EURO
Casadores Reposado Tequila, Pomegranate Vermouth, Grapefruit, Amarena Cherry Soda. Can really taste the alcohol, especially the tequila, and every time I do a shot of tequila I feel sick. The pomegranate has really helped but this is bringing me back to nights at BAD clubs with £10 in my pocket taking every free shot going. 5/10
Around 00:30 the music really kicked into its 80s banger 5th Gear…
#5. Fortified Baklava Wine - 9 EURO
Mead, Zacapa 23 yo, Beurre Noisette, Baklava Spices. When in Rome/Athens… I saw this on the menu and knew I had to try to see if it could capture the sweet, sticky glory that is baklava. Strong taste of the Zacapa met with the sweetness of the honey wine and the warming Baklava spices. Took me off guard, surprisingly enjoyable, 7/10
#6. Shaker Boys (Sweet and Sour) - 10 EURO
Bacardi 8 yo, Milk Water, Nutmeg, Vanilla, Jasmine Kvass.
On my first sip my instinct was to say 4/10, but this grew on me. You can taste the rum, but the nutmeg is making me think of custard or creme brulee (is there nutmeg in creme brulee?) I’m definitely finding it a bit more enjoyable; smooth, easy… maybe it’s a 7? Yes, okay, 7. The jasmine is there too. Okay right, realistically it’s a four, but the more you drink it, the more right the milkiness is and now I’m loving it. Just not one to start with sober! 6/10
01:00 - Amazed that people are coming in at 1:00 as if they’re rolling in for 11:00pm start of the night drinks, you go Athens
01:30 - Around 1:30 was when the new crew started to arrive, bartenders off shift and the more cool, older Athenian crowd. Gone was the constant instagramming of cocktails and instead we’re replaced with clouds of cigarette smoke and no-nonsense cocktails.
01:45 - We were offered a small digestiv of their house vermouth, which was delicious and gratefully received. Must be the treatment you receive for blowing the budget.
#7. Tea Ceremony - 10 EURO
Monkey Shoulder Whisky, Shiitake, Ginger Honey, Mango Kombucha.
This is a strange one, it came in a curiously small Japanese style tea cup, with a flake of something (still not sure what) on top. The initial flavour is overpoweringly mango and is a little too sweet for me, but there is a really long finish with the honey and ginger coming out to play. The slight funk of the shiitake is present throughout but the Monkey Shoulder is lost a little along the way. It reminds me a little of sake, which I’m not a fan of. I’m a little tipsy now so I think I’m pretending to be a Master Chef judge. 6/10. On second thought, 4/10, too cloyingly sweet and hard to finish.
#8. Eureka (Fruity and Smokey) - 9 EURO
Apricot Vermouth, Verde Mezcal, Metsovone Cheese.
At first taste I’m undecided… slight funky aftertaste. Nice funky though, like – ‘did I have a cheeseboard for dinner’? That’s what this reminds me of… a slightly smoky cheesiness followed up with sweetness and tartness (a bit like a chutney) from the apricot. As I drink this, the tunes are BANGING and it is a good drink to go along with them. Its a 7/10. Think the definite funkiness makes it a total marmite drink, you’ll either love it or you’ll hate it.
#9. Clear Soup - 10 EURO
Patron Silver Tequila, Coconut & Pineapple Sherry, Lime & Celery Ash, Hops.
The last drink in the saga, it’s 2:00 am, this is the latest I’ve been up in months, let alone with a drink, but I digress. Very dry, sweet but not too sweet, definite notes of coconut and pineapple. I’m missing the smokiness of the celery ash but there is a little hoppyness to it. Do I know what I’m talking about? No. Is this a nice drink? Absolutely…
8/10 I’d drink more tequila if it was in this.
And the last word from Serena…
#10. Anarchy (Sweet and Sour) - 11 EURO
Bacardi 4 yo, Metaxa 12* greek spirit, fashionola banana, spices
I LIKE THIS! I don’t even know why but I liiiiiiike this. Maybe it’s the reggae in the background, maybe it’s the fact it’s past 2 am, maybe it’s the heat of the rum with the sweetness of the banana and the heady spices… who knows? Am I Gregg Wallace????? (two G’s please). God, I love Athens and I love BEING ON HOLIDAY.
Okay, Alex told me to think about it properly; The sweetness doesn’t taste artificial, it’s cold,
and I love rum, even though I shouldn’t have it (IBS). This is the perfect cocktail to round out
the night. It returns home to all the things that I love in a glass; the breeze is blowing, the night is slowly getting older and I’m ready for bed. 9/10
THE CLUMSIES PLAYLIST (as far as I could tell)
Song list I recognised: 18/30
Enjoy the silence - Depeche Mode
Never enough (remix) - Luther Vandross
Dr Beat - Miami Sound Machine
My Number - Foals
Last Train to London (remix) - ELO
Dreams (remix) - Fleetwood Mac
The Ultimate Warlord - Hillberg, D-Tex
Blue Monday - New Order
Just can’t get enough - Depeche Mode
The Bad Touch - Bloodhound Gang
You Spin Me Round - Dead or Alive
Maniac - Michael Sambello
Don’t you want me - The Human League
Tell it to my heart - Taylor Dayne
Ain’t Nobody - Chaka Khan
You keep me hangin on - Kim Wilde
I just can’t get you out of my head - Kylie Minogue
The Land Down Under (remix) - Men at Work
World Hold On - Bob Sinclair
Music sounds better with you – Stardust
I lost count around here, but I definitely remember singing along loudly to DMX’s Party up