When the Meze Restaurant on Mill Road closed last year I was sad to see it go – I had enjoyed many a lunchtime soiree there with friends and it had been a very welcome addition to the area. Given the blank frontage and window-covering blinds, you could be forgiven for thinking that it is still closed. However, it has actually been a cocktail bar for several months now. Mr Mill Road finally took me to ‘196’ (as it is fondly known) for the first time a couple of weeks ago to try their much talked about cocktails…
I had mentioned my impending visit on Twitter and received lots of different suggestions for ‘must try’ cocktails. I decided to start with a Strawberry Daiquiri – I couldn’t remember the last time (if ever) I had had a daiquiri, but this had been recommended to me by three different people so seemed a good place to start. The mixture of premium white rum mixed with fresh strawberries, strawberry puree and other ‘extras’ served on crushed ice was a delight just to look at. My first sip was beautiful and the richness of the strawberry puree gave it a lovely texture. Unsurprisingly this went down a treat and soon Mr Mill Road and I were ready for our second cocktail.
A White Russian is one of my all time favourite cocktails and so I decided this had to be next on the list. I have made many White Russian cocktails in the past and am (rather annoyingly) quite particular about how I like them. I was not disappointed at all and this cocktail also looked amazing. It had generous measures of vodka and kahlua and tasted lovely and creamy (and the additional cherry really was the cherry on top!). Most of the cocktails are priced around the £6.95 mark. This may sound a little on the expensive side, but I really do think the sheer quality of them – not to mention the perfectly cosy yet unobtrusive atmosphere – makes it a price well worth paying. There are a handful of tables for two and also larger tables if you’re visiting with a group of friends; and there are also seats at the bar if you want to get closer to the cocktail-shaking action.
I was so excited about my cocktails that I forgot to take photos of them. So for blog-photo purposes (ahem!) I decided to make my own strawberry daiquiri at home a few days ago. If I’d had more time I would have really pushed the boat out, but on this occasion I decided to make a simpler version. The key ingredient of a strawberry daiquiri is white rum. Both the Co-operative and Londis did the standard Malibu’s, Bacardi’s and own brands, but I wanted more of a pure high quality rum, so I eventually chose a bottle of Havana Club Anejo Bianco (£20 from Billy’s Mini Market in Romsey). Instead of blending fresh strawberries or using a puree, I bought a carton of Innocent Strawberry & Banana Smoothie (£2.85 at the Co-operative). I put crushed ice (£1.29 for a big bag, also at the Co-op) in the bottom of each glass and then poured my ‘stirred’ mixture of rum and smoothie on top (about 1 part rum, 2 parts smoothie – stirred well for a couple of minutes) and finished with a small squeeze of fresh lime and a fresh strawberry to decorate. It tasted delicious and I think using a high quality rum was key to getting this right.
Next time I visit 196 I plan to try a Bloody Mary. My own recipe of many years involves wasabi and tastes lovely, so I might just blog soon about how to make these at home too… until then, cheers!
If you fancy trying some non-alcoholic cocktails, I have just discovered that Innocent Drinks have come up with twelve delicious sounding suggestions.