Last week was lovely for several reasons, one of which was the Coffee and Cocktails Fusion Experience event at La Bottega Milanese, a collaboration between Bottega and The Maven as part of Leeds Indie Food 2016. Hosted at the Bond Court branch on Wednesday night, it gave a select group a chance to listen to the wisdom of Alex Galantino, owner of La Bottega/coffee king, and Nino Antonino, owner of The Maven/master mixologist.
As we took our seats and waited for the rest of the group to arrive, we were offered a small pot of affogato – vanilla ice cream drenched in a shot of espresso and topped with a sprinkle of nuts. Alex and Nino started off by talking about how they first met and started collaborating, and took us through a brief history of coffee and how it first came to be combined with alcohol. Did you know that coffee was almost banned in Italy in the 1500s, until Pope Clement VIII tasted it and decided it was basically the best thing he’d ever tasted? Yeah, that happened.
So, onto the cocktails. We started off with an espresso martini – apparently there was a bit of debate over whether to include it, but it was decided (rightly) that it was to iconic to leave out. I’m glad they didn’t – this one was strong in both coffee and alcohol, with a light, fluffy foam top. Nino told us the trick is not to skimp on the vodka – invest in a good brand and something on the stronger side, around 50% ABV – and NEVER drink it through a straw.
(Sidenote: Roland’s on Call Lane use La Bottega coffee, and boast the official best espresso martini in Leeds. A coincidence it is surely not.)
Next up was a tiramisu martini with rum – I wish I could remember the ingredients but I can only assume I was already too hyped up on coffee. Whatever was in it, it was all good in my book; it had a gorgeous smooth consistency and was slightly sweeter than the espresso martini, with a hint of chocolate. Nino and Alex paired this tasting with some handy tips of how to vanquish a hangover and how to flush caffeine out of your system, pointing out that the best way to do both was to keep swigging from the cups of water sitting in front of us.
The last cocktail on the menu was a real surprise. At the beginning of the evening we had been introduced to cascara – the dried skins of coffee cherries – which we’d already smelt and tasted and found that they had a woody aroma not unlike tea. For the final cocktail, Nino had brewed the cascara with water (don’t quote me on this recipe), then added vodka and lemon juice to create a light, refreshing cocktail that was more comparable to iced tea than coffee.
Alex and Nino are so skilled at their crafts but you don’t manage to found and build a hugely successful business without also having a good marketing head on your shoulders. So of course, this event was for them the perfect opportunity to dangle some delicious cocktails in front of us and then casually mention that they’ll be added to their menus this summer. Especially in the case of La Bottega, who this summer will be keeping their Bond Court shop open late as a casual bar where I’ll be indulging in the perfect summer cocktail I never knew was missing from my life. Bravo fellas, I see what you did there.
What have you been enjoying over Leeds Indie Food? I’m so excited for La Bottega to open up as a post-work drinking spot, will I see you there?