A Margarita Without Cointreau? Not Worth its Salt…
By Tom Wilkinson
Situated just outside Finsbury Circus near Moorgate is the South Place Hotel. And tucked away at the back of this modern hotel is a hidden bar called the Secret Garden. Well away from the hustle and bustle of busy London streets, this summer has seen the South Place Hotel transformed into an Acapulco pop-up created in association with Cointreau. The big occasion? To celebrate the 70th birthday of the Margarita cocktail.
In the Secret Garden you can treat yourself to four different cocktails, each priced at £11.50: The Original Margarita, The Lavender Margarita, The Citrus Chai Margarita, and the Sweet Spritz. As a cocktail buff I had to treat myself to a Spritz and sample the quality of their Original Margarita.
The Original Margarita is an iconic blend of Olmeca Blanco tequila, Cointreau, and lime, and is indeed a true classic. Served with a dried lime and a salted rim to take the edge off of the strong citrus flavour, this Margarita is a refreshing summer drink. While it is served “up” as opposed to “long”, I find that any decent Margarita, such as this one, is delightful when drunk slowly (though you may need some water on the side if you end up using too much of the salt as you drink)
The Sweet Spritz? Cointreau, charred pineapple, lemon juice, and champagne in a glass rimmed with icing sugar… the Sweet Spritz is a delightful aperitif. Still tropical in style, the sour edge of the lemon is taken off by ingesting the sugar, although I found it to be sweet enough on its own. The charred pineapple adds a slightly smoky flavour as an aftertaste that stays in your mouth making each sip last.
Food, Glorious Food…
A range of canapes were on offer, including a seared tuna served with wasabi that had a decent punch that was offset by the Margaritas. Scotch eggs, while decidedly British, provided a meaty counterpart to the sour cocktails on offer. The dessert options were flavourful fruit macarons, chocolate torte, and cheesecakes. The torte was certainly a good accompaniment to the Sweet Spritz as the dark chocolate provided a nice counterpoint to the sweetness of the cocktail. A perfect end to the evening.
The décor in the Secret Garden really reflects the tropical feeling of the Margarita. Hidden away at the back of the hotel, you feel truly transported to another time and another place as the bartender mixes you a cocktail. Waterfalls, palm trees, and a roof reminiscent of a jungle canopy really set the scene and give you a break from the rush of the city around you.
Contributing Editor Tom Wilkinson makes cocktails in his spare time and podcasts about their history at Dr Wilko’s Campaign for Better Beverages. He also produces 2 other podcasts: Hat of Many Things, on random topics drawn from a hat and Unparliamentary Language about the state of British politics.