In this edition of the Tipsy Traveller's Guide to Globally Inspired Cocktails we head to the United Kingdom. With a long, storied history, the U.K. has become an epicenter of cultural innovation, but with a penchant for nods to the past. This cocktail plays on those same notes, classic, lively, the lemonberry bramble.
As a long-term expat, I’ve done my fair sure of travel, particularly around Asia. In the pre-COVID days with cheap flights and generous visa policies, an impromptu weekend jaunt abroad is a reality that seems more foreign now than any offbeat locale I could visit. Still, while I can recall many a Thursday perusing booking sites in the hopes of a cheap flight, by and large, I prefer a bit of prep before taking the leap. At the very least securing some key dining reservations, I am a creature of habit after all.
As you might expect, this entry in the “Tipsy Traveller’s Guide to Globally Inspired Cocktails”, better known as the much less cumbersome title, “Tipsy Travels” features one of those “less planned” instances. In this occasion, a last-minute decision to attend an industry conference in the United Kingdom. Naturally, I had to be on a flight out of South Korea and on my way to London Heathrow within 48 hours. With the clock ticking and a mountain of preparation before flying out, I committed myself to brute-forcing the laundry list of tasks ahead of me aided as usual by my “let’s get serious” work ritual of the time - ordering enough Korean-style Chinese food to feed a family of four (I lived alone), selecting a can of ice-cold Coke from the refridgerator (one of my many vices), and beginning to toil at the task at hand. Time to prep for a conference.
Preparing for a conference tends to always be a bit of a tall order, even under more relaxed timelines; as I write this, the OrderEZ team is prepping for the Craftbrewers Conference in Minneapolis, and now, much like then, shipping marketing collateral, prepping meetings, and arranging international travel logistics is enough to drive one to drink…especially if you were already planning to go to an alcohol-centric conference.
After much stress, much uncertainty, and copious amounts of caffeine, eventually, all the logistics settled into place and before I knew it I was ready to depart for Incheon International Airport - the first step of the journey. What is ordinarily a leisurely express bus ride to the airport (from nearly anywhere in Seoul) was overly complicated by my decision to take the subway that day instead. I can’t quite recall what inspired the decision, perhaps perceiving it as the faster option due to traffic congestion, but I can recall with confidence it was absolutely the wrong choice.
With much huffing, puffing, hullabaloo and hustle, I finally found myself at the check-in counter for Korean Air, and with what I can only imagine as some sort of divine karmic dividend payout for frequently donating blood (I’m O-Negative, they email often) or other similar benevolent act,
I was rewarded with what can only be described as the holy grail for frequent travelers - a free business class upgrade.
The flight was uneventful, in the blissfully pleasant kind of way that can only be appreciated if all of your other recent events were chaotic. Clearly meeting that criteria, I passed the time by gorging myself on the “elevated” dining that business class fares provide (my first steak in the sky!) while watching old Samurai Champloo episodes on my phone - a tonal reversal from the frantic build up,I couldn’t help but pause for a moment and think as my Shin Ramyun arrived made to order, “ahh this is traveling in style”.
For those unfamiliar readers, Americans have a somewhat odd cultural relationship with the British people. While we are quite ready to tease their “superior English” accent by reciting butchered Harry Potter quotes or boast heartily about how we handed them sound defeat against all odds - the fact of the matter is that America’s Revolutionary War was in the 1700’s. Through a couple centuries, a few wars, and lots of cultural exchange - old hostilities have died out, making way for particularly warm relations with our distant relatives across the pond. With that said, upon arriving in London I felt oddly welcome. Perhaps it was that for the first time in a while I could fully understand conversations around me or readily read signs on the wall, perhaps it was that I was enjoying the tune of American Boy by Estelle as I entered the Tube (the name for London’s underground subway system), nonetheless, after much ado about seemingly everything, I had happily arrived.
Unfortunately, an evening arrival and lengthy trip to the hotel quashed my hopes of partaking in some of London’s more celebrated eats. With most restaurants long closed and a growing appetite, I did what any jet-lagged explorer would do in that situation - I walked around the streets of London aimlessly until I could find something that would shut my stomach up. Determined, rather stubbornly, to avoid eating at McDonalds (despite appreciating regional specialties, McDonalds felt a failure for my first proper stab at British cuisine) I pressed forward, marveling at the red double-decker busses and London Shard in the distance until I stumbled upon what may be one of the best late-night eats I’ve ever encountered - Turkish wraps with crispy chips made to order. As the cook shaved off layers of tender meat from the rotisserie I felt accomplished, I’d found great food in a new country, and I didn’t even have to go to McDonalds to get it.
The rest of my time in London was spent bouncing between conference exhibitions and the most British cuisine I could cram into a few days span. Between savory pies, tea and crumpets, bangers and mash, and more, I was fully committed to the culinary cause. Before I knew it, I was at the tail end of my time in London, and winding down the conference’s end with some friends and colleagues at a local bar. When it came time to order, I asked for recommendations, “Something a local would love” is a phrase that has served me consistently well throughout my travels. This next drink recipe is a testament to that approach, a kindling to my love of gin, and an all-around tasty beverage; a British classic - the Bramble.
50 ml gin
30 ml fresh lemon juice
1 tbsp. sugar syrup
1 tbsp. blackberry liqueur, such as Crème de mûre
Lemon slice and blackberries, to garnish
Juice 1-2 lemons into mixer cup
Add gin and simple syrup
Muddle blackberries with blackberry liquer
Shake and garnish with lemon and mint