London is often sought out as the stamp of approval for up and coming beverages, dining concepts and beyond. Knowing this all too well is Proof Drinks, a marketing company that imports such beverages as Mickey Finns into the UK, who they held their first in-house party on the terrace of ‘The Ultimate Soho Penthouse’, Great Marlborough Street, in August to showcase a variety of the drinks they represent. Seven floors up, we found ourselves at a swish bar with a DJ and an amazing view of London’s rooftops.
This party was specifically to launch a Bolivian liqueur made from 100 per cent coca leaf distillate called CocaBlue (‘liquid cocaine!’ I cried, before being quietly told by my guest that Coca-Cola is also produced from coca leaf), which comes out at an eye-popping 55.5 per cent ABV.
Before sampling some of the CocaBlue, we soaked up the surroundings while drinking some bottles of Briska cider, which came in apple, pear and pomegranate flavours. I tried the apple, which was dangerously easy to drink, tasting almost identical to Appletiser. I can imagine it doing well in student pubs. The rooftop bar was really modern without being pretentious: dark wood decking and comfy sofas made it feel a bit like we were on holiday. It was a bit chilly, but the atmosphere was friendly and buoyant.
Someone brought us our first shot of Agwa de Bolivia, another liqueur made from the coca leaf but which is also distilled with other herbs and plants. We were instructed to bite a slice of lime before downing it. I couldn’t really taste the Agwa itself, it more served to dampen the bitterness of the lime, but the effect was deliciously tangy.
Later we were offered the savagely-named Pistonhead. Pistonhead is a beer from Sweden which comes, pleasingly, in a can with a massive skull on the front. It was very malty (perhaps due to the three different types of malt detailed in the ingredients) and luckily not too heavy on the palate of a Corona drinker like me. It will be going on sale in music venues around the UK from this autumn, before reaching other drinking establishments.
Holy macaroni cheese balls Batman! Some tasty but sparse canapés came round as the rooftop got busier and the party gathered momentum. Another shot of Agwa came round in the form of an ‘Agwa Bomb’, which was OK, however the overpowering energy drink meant sadly I was still yet to discover exactly what the Agwa tasted like.
Finally the moment of truth came. We went into a room with a fish tank embedded in the wall to try the exclusive CocaBlue. We were told that prior to this evening, only two custom-made bottles had ever come into existence, one of which was presented to the president of Bolivia, Evo Morales, the other going to Princess Maxima of the Netherlands. What’s good enough for them…
The CocaBlue was actually really nice, surprisingly enjoyable for such a strong spirit, although every one of those 55 per cents hits you a couple of seconds later. The closest comparison taste-wise I could think of would be a much less medicinal Jagermeister – it left a nice glowy feeling in my throat.
Retailing at £120 a bottle, I have a feeling only the likes of Princess Maxima will be drinking CocaBlue, which is a shame because it really was quite good. Safe to say I’m looking forward to seeing the more affordable Pistonhead and Briska in my local one day.