Alcoholic Architecture is now closed pending a new location.
The basement where the bar is located was historically used as a banana store, where the unripe bananas from the West Indies were stored after unloading from the nearby port. The bar also sits next to London’s oldest gothic Cathedral, a holy site that has sheltered weary travellers for over a thousand years and London’s most renowned food market. These themes are channeled into a drinks list designed to complement the flavours of the worlds first breathable cloud of cocktail.
Southwark Cathedral was originally a priory where monks toiled and tended to the sick. Our drinks list looks to pay tribute to the monks whose need for self sufficiency and history as medics saw them become adept cultivators of many medicinal and scented herbs, plants and flowers. They combined these with their knowledge of brewing, fermenting and distilling to produce some of the finest beers, wines and botanical liqueurs known to drinking culture.
Recent excavations by the Museum of London on the South Bank of the Thames at Southwark discovered a banana skin preserved in a fifteenth century fish farm which archeobotanists dated to about 1460, 175 years earlier than previous estimates of the first banana in England. From a botanical perspective the banana plant is a very big herb, so large that is is commonly mistaken for a tree. Our drinks list takes as its starting point the beers, wines and herbal liqueurs produced by monks - Chartreuse, Benedictine, Buckfast, Champagne and looks to combine them with the cornucopia of botanical ingredients and flavours available to the modern bartender. Drawing inspiration from Borough markets produce, medieval history and the weather, Alcoholic Architecture is a bar where meteorology, mixology and monasticism collide.
Some 18 tons of herbs and plants arrive at the Grande-Chartreuse Monastery in south eastern France each year. The recipe of 130 botanicals is known only to two monks who hold secret a 400-year-old recipe. Their elixir is made by crushing and mixing botanicals in various combinations, each of which is then steeped in alcohol before being distilled and then combined. Green Chartreuse – at 55% alcohol – was released in 1764, with a sweeter form of their liqueur, Yellow Chartreuse (40% alcohol) following in 1838.
This liqueur is based on 56 different herbs and botanicals which flavour a base of brandy and neutral spirit. It has its origins as an elixir said to have been made by members of the Benedictine Order from the early 16th century but it wasn’t commercialised until the 1860s. A working men’s club in the north of England is the world’s biggest consumer of the liqueur, where members of the Burnley miners’ working men’s social club get through 1,000 bottles a year after having developed a taste for it during the First World War. Today they drink the
‘Bene Bomb’, combining Bénédictine with an energy drink.
The recipe for Buckfast Tonic wine is attributed to French monks who settled at Buckfast Abbey, Devon, in the 1880s. Base wines from Spain, known as mistellas, were imported and to these were added the tonic ingredients according to an old recipe. Today Buckfast continues to be made according to the same basic recipe as used in the early days, though base wines now come from France. Drop for drop, it is said to have more caffeine than more widely known energy drinks. ‘Buckie’ has gained notoriety in recent years, cited as a causative factor in violent crimes in parts of Scotland and gaining headlines such as ‘Tonic Wine Crime’, though Buckfast’s distributor stresses it is no more a culprit than any other
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