Any frequent visitor to the blog will know that cocktail reviews feature frequently. I am the author of most of them as my tastes have increasingly demanded smaller quantities of more potent drinks. I am not able to drink the large amounts that I used to. So for any bar that I now visit I need to be impressed in one or drinks as no more than that will be consumed. This is why I think cocktails bars have become so attractive, so many new and fun combinations, in small amounts, with a price tag that means I will not go over my two drink limit.
While on a visit to Cork City, myself and my trusty companion decided to pass the afternoon train wait by reading and drinking cocktails. A quick search for bars suggested the Cornstone Bar and Restaurant and as we were close by we decided to give it a go, knowing nothing really about the venue. We arrived and were seated quickly in the cool, air conditioned bar section of the restaurant. It was decorated with colourful floor tiles and black wooden features, including the bar which was heaving with various bottles of mysterious liquid. Fresh herbs also featured on the bar which gave me great hope for the tasty tipples we were hopefully about to consume. The atmosphere was further bolstered by the presence of a three piece jazz band playing away in the corner of the bar area. They had even managed to find the perfect volume, providing an entertaining, relaxing backing track without making conversation impossible. So far so good for a cocktail Sunday.
I ordered a Red Barron (€12.50) from the menu. The Red Barron was made up of Beefeater gin, raspberry puree, chestnut syrup, fresh lime juice and prosecco. Gin and raspberries are two of my favourite mixes in the world, the Chelsea Rose being my party cocktail trick, but I choose the Red Barron for the chestnut syrup. I had never before tried it and was quite curious. The cocktail was delicious, cold and refreshing. It was very sweet, tasting like liquid candy, so those looking for a drink with an alcohol sting should probably not choose it. I could imagine more than one getting a bit sickly especially if it warmed up, but there was no fear of that happening, I drank it down quite quickly. The chesnut syrup was present but not overbearing and the raspberries really were the dominant taste. The gin and prosecco did not over power either and without the menu I would have been hard pressed to guess the alcohol present.
My trusty companion opted for the Cornstone Collins (€11.95) which is made with Earl Grey and lemon peel infused gin, fresh lemon juice, elderflower syrup, and Fever Tree tonic water. This cocktail was a great cooling down beverage, as it was light and cold. The infused gin was by far the strongest flavour, Earl Grey really popped out to throttle your taste buds. The elderflower felt a little lost under all the citrus notes sadly, so this was more a drink for fans of lemon. The inclusion of Fever Tree tonic was a stroke of genius and it kept the quality of the drink at the higher levels. Once you drink Fever Tree you do feel a bit spoiled and regular tonic just doesn’t seem so nice anymore.
The drinks were really enjoyable so of course we had to order another two. My philosophy when I go to a bar or restaurant is that you must order at least one thing that you could not make/be too afraid to make at home. So I chose the Balsamicotini (€9.95). Made up of Grey Goose vodka, fresh strawberries, balsamico, fresh basil, fresh lime juice, cranberry juice and strawberry syrup, I decided to take a risk. I have previously eaten deserts in restaurants that combine strawberry, basil and balsamic vinegar, but I was not so sure how it would work out in a drink. One with vodka no less, a spirit that I had spurned for one too many drunken teenage hangovers. As the drink winged it’s way over to me I honestly felt more nervous than when I ordered an Absinthe Drip from the Merchant Hotel and the staff kept looking at me and commenting nervously. Cocktails are not cheap, and when you get one that you hate it feels like an expensive tragedy.
The Balsamicotini was placed in front of me. There was a cute strawberry and basil leaf floating in an ice-basket on top of a liquid like looked like Ribena’s angry cousin. I took a sip and well let’s just say, hook it to my veins, it was magnificent! The drink was the perfect combination of the savory basil and balsamic with the sweetness of the fruit. Somehow they all developed in the right combination, like the three-course meal chewing gum in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. For those who battle with craving sweet after savory and vica versa, this cocktail was perfect. The barman said that it was one of their most popular drinks and I am not suprised. If you ever get a chance to order it, do. It will not disappoint, right down to wrapping up the garnish strawberry in the basil leaf and popping it in your mouth.
Previously, I wrote about The Blind Pig’s Prohibition Cocktail Class. Here we learned how to make an Old Fashioned. Since then my trust companion has been dutifully making them for everyone, converting one-and-all to the boozy goodness. Comparisons to Mad Men are made and people refuse a third as they have reached their limit. Today, we had the chance to sample another Made Men staple, a Mint Julep. This was no ordinary Julip, rather a Georgia Mint Julip (€11.50). This meant that is was created using Woodford Reserve (Bourbon) peach brandy, peach bitters, and of course, fresh mint and soda water. Served with plenty of ice I was curious to see how it would go down with an Old Fashioned enthusiast (him) and a gin fan (me). A took a sip and it was like getting a kick to the face, this was a strong drink, not to be taken lightly. Once I got over the shock of the alcohol burn a strange thing happened. The booze flavour fell away leaving a strong aftertaste of peach, not unlike eating a Petit Filous. It was so creamy, I didn’t want to take another drink for fear of loosing it. Undoubtedly the peach was the main star of this drink as the mint sadly didn’t feature. The drink did not necessarily suffer because of it, the peach was fabulous but it was disappointing not to be left with a taste of mint after a Mint Julip.
I would highly recommend visiting the Cornstone in Cork and sampling the cocktails. They were tasty, interesting and fun to try. The Cornstone itself was a nice place to enjoy an afternoon, the service was quick, the facilities clean and fresh and the decor was stylish but not too obtrusive. The only downside was that it is a Seafood/Steak restaurant on the other side of the bar so you will have the pass a tank of lobsters, tied up and waiting for their impending doom. If you are like me it is quite hard to get that from your mind even as you are being distracted with cocktails.
On a final note, if someone does try their Berry Rosemary please let me know what is is like. It was just pipped by the Balsamicotini as drink number 2.