Freya Morris journeys up the Shard to visit Oblix and sample a collection of mixers and tonics hailing from Holland and, like their ‘jenever’ predecessor, looking to convert a thirsty English crowd.
The 32nd floor of The Shard on a sunny July evening seemed an ironic venue choice for the ‘Double Dutch Christmas Party’. The scent of cucumber and watermelon wafting from my glass did little to invoke yuletide festivities but Christmas come early was certainly what came to mind. A night of cocktails and canapés is always festive, even if the 360-degree views and sense of vertigo came from the towering location rather than a genuine trip aboard Father Christmas’ sleigh.
Although not a specific Christmas drink Double Dutch were joining in with beverage companies across the capital in launching their Christmas campaign early. The minds behind this Christmas-come-summer madness are Dutch twins Joyce and Raissa de Haas, creators of a new and exciting range of ‘innovative, deliciously playful and all-natural’ premium tonic waters.
They are the two halves of ‘Double Dutch’ – unfortunately no free drink for recognising the pun. We sampled the tonics, on their own or refined in elegant, lemon-zested, chocolate-dusted and mint-sprigged cocktails. Despite the Christmas theme, their understated taste and presentation was a pleasant surprise. And, I have to say, the cloying nausea I felt after one glance out of the window down the thirty-two floor drop, became an afterthought.
Some of the flavours, the cucumber and watermelon for example, are better mixed with spirits. They added a cool, lingering and yet pleasant chill to a herbal gin, but on their own were slightly too sickly. Others are delicious either way. The pomegranate and basil tonic, sweetened by the red arils from the pomegranate fruit, is festive cheer in a bottle. Pair with dark rums or tequila for a Caribbean kick.
The drinks certainly fit a creative brief. Oil-based to ensure depth of flavour, they’re a refreshing answer to the lack of interesting, high-quality mixers the twins noticed in the drinks market. Lauded ‘Best Innovative Food and Beverage Brand’ by Richards Branson’s Virgin StartUp Foodpreneur Awards, they have set their sights on high places. The venue choice begins to make much more sense.
The tonics are slimline, the 66 calories in each belying the naughty-but-nice appearance of the bottle. They’re unusual and ‘mmms’ of appreciation can be heard on either side as we drink. However, there are also a few complaints that some of the cocktails are too sweet. For this reason, seasoned fans of Mother’s Ruin may prefer the dry, unflavoured ‘Indian’ and ‘Slimline’ tonics with their gin.
Those determined to resurrect the shambles that has been the English summer, might prefer to indulge their sweet-tooth, and here I’d suggest ‘the Dutch Mechanic’. It’s pale, peachy and given a real lightness from the tonic; made from entirely natural ingredients, blended with spring water from the North of England.
If you’re not a white spirits drinker, then the addition of ‘Double Dutch’ mixer might convert you. If you are a gin drinker, I’d select the flavours with caution. They’re distinct enough to surprise, likely to delight, but possibly dismay – the pomegranate basil concoction being too sweet for some.
The evening was rounded off with a tasting of the newest flavour: ginger and cranberry. Again it was sweet, but also landed a warmer, spicy kick to remind us that this was indeed a Christmas Party. It seemed well received, an approval no doubt helped by the happy knowledge that the lift would save us, now four-cocktails down, from negotiating the stairs.
Double Dutch Spritz - Bombay Sapphire Gin, Aperol, Lemon, Plum Bitters, Double Dutch Indian Tonic
Dutch Mechanic - Bombay Sapphire Gin, Peach, Double Dutch Light Tonic
Lutiner - St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur, Grenadine, Lime, Berries, Double Dutch Pomegranate and Basil,
Pearsuasion - Grey Goose Pear, Cucumber, Mint, Double Dutch Watermelon and Cucumber.