I remember 58 and Co. from a few years back, when they were known as Fifty Eight Gin. I reviewed their distilled sloe gin – that is, a gin which has been redistilled after infusion with the fruit. A delightful way to add that plum and almond complexity to a long drink or cocktail without a liqueur’s sweetness, it was an impressive offering. However, the distillery had slipped off my radar by degrees after that – only for that to be rectified towards the end of this spring, when I received an invite to see what they were up to now. Wandering over to their Haggerston railway arch on a warm May night, my curiosity was piqued.

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It must have been five years ago that I became aware of Vecchia Romagna, when a bottle of their Etichetta Nera (Black Label) found its way to our flat. As much as I love and respect Cognac and Armagnac, I’m conscious that good brandy can come from parts of the world other than France, so a storied Italian brand falling into my lap like so was very welcome. The Etichetta Nera is and was a very decent pick, especially given the price. Enjoyably full as a sipper, with tropical fruit and spice notes, it was an excellent go-to for cocktails as well. That it came in a striking three-faced bottle didn’t hurt, and guests noticing that in the cocktail bar hastened an already swift rate of depletion.

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Mysterious pre-dinner drink….

A slightly close, damp, autumn evening in west London isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when you think of scene-setting in a Bond film, but, well, when you’ve been summoned to enjoy a five-course meal, who’s going to quibble?

Though the summons was not entirely lacking in mystery (I knew the who, the what, the where, the when and probably even the why), there was still a certain amount about the evening that we weren’t being let in on. What I did know was that The Distillery, Portobello Road Gin’s heart of operations and an excellent boozer, was hosting a “James Bond Experience” and I was invited to see what I thought of it. The promise was of a decadent evening enjoying five courses, with matching drinks, and all tied in to Bond’s (and Fleming’s) predilections and finest moments. Beyond that, lips were sealed.

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Cosmic Disco Egg (hazier than the can I had last night)

Due to a fraught couple of days, the end of my Saturday shift had left me rather more in need of decompression than normal. Good people and good beer were at the top of my list, so it was a relief that I just had to drag my weary bones down the road to Deptford and find myself at Villages‘ Taproom, who were hosting what promised to be a delightful beer celebration.

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