Basil Grande

In celebration of London Cocktail Week, we took a trip to Oxford Circus to visit the charismatic mixologist, barman and entrepreneur J.J Goodman – owner of the London Cocktail Club, who has created four Herbilicious cocktails!

The four cocktails in this eclectic mix are called Basil Grande, Thyme will Tell, Coriander-Labra and Green with Envy. JJ tells us that when making cocktails using herbs, the trick is to give the cocktail a full flavour, smell and aroma of the leaves without destroying them. JJ spends the first couple of minutes simply smelling the herbs and examining their different qualities before he unleashes his ‘flair’ bartending. “By muddling the leaves with the distinct alcohol flavours, you really bring out their flavours.”

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JJ, who was mentored by world-renowned chef Raymond Blanc, knows a thing or two about using fresh herbs for flavour, so we asked him why he thought fresh herbs and cocktails complement each other so well? “There are different categories for drinks, sweet and sour, wet and dry, short and long. Fresh herbs can complement every one of these categories in many different ways – they add so much potential to any given cocktail! That’s why they’re so popular!”

The four cocktails JJ made all use fresh herbs both as an infusion into the alcohols as well as a garnish. “Basil Grande’s a sweet little thing, I love the combination of strawberries and basil – basil has a great quality of bringing out both a sweet and a savoury flavour, so I enjoy using it in my cocktails. But my favourite is probably the Coriander-labra – it’s zingy and refreshing and coriander makes the lime really stand out so that would be my go-to drink if I was on a night out.”

The trend for creating weird and wonderful cocktails and drink combinations is really taking off at the moment, with everyone from the Helmsley sisters to the top hotels in the world putting their own spin on the classic drinks. Although JJ adds his own touch to each drink he makes, he tends to stay away from using overly complicated mixtures and alcohols. “I want people to enjoy cocktails without having to spend a small fortune. Cocktails could easily cost £20 a pop if you let your imagination run wild, but I prefer to use the classic ingredients, put a twist to it, like adding fresh herbs and let the ingredients work together to speak for themselves.”

Having created an array of cocktails in his lifetime as a barman, we ask him what his best moment was in the world of being a mixologist. Smirking he tells us of the time he made Rihanna and Justin Timberlake a drink on the Alan Carr show, “Alan set me up with the worst-stocked pop-up bar you could ever imagine! But eventually I managed to throw together a few ingredients that they were both happy with – it was a crazy show but a lot of fun too!”

But the question we really wanted answered from JJ? ‘If you were a herb – which one would you be?’ He laughs and says with confidence – “Mint – because it’s refreshing, goes with everything but is best with alcohol!”

Many thanks to JJ Goodman and London Cocktail Club.