Bump N’ Grind | Bump Spirit Courses at Bump Caves, 208 Tower Bridge Road, London SE1 2UP
We’ve been to many a master class – how to make coffee, how to assemble the perfect chocolate bomb, how to make pizza dough, even how to pickle an egg! But this distil your own gin class was by far one of the best that we’ve been to.
Held at the relatively new Bump Caves, in the basement of the Tower Bridge branch of the Draft House pub and hosted by a Mr Max Chater – Brand Development Manager. So far, so normal! But it’s so not normal. This dive bar breaches the limits of flavor, aroma, sound, texture and vision. It’s inspired by the late-60s psychedelic movement and takes its lead from the ‘Happening’ – an underground party, which was an assault on the senses (or so we’re told). Other influences include Tom Wolfe’s book, Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, not read it but I’m on holiday soon so will add it to my book list. [when you’re not playing Clash of Clans you mean? – Saff]
But don’t worry, the Bump Caves aren’t all hippy trippy and the air isn’t laced with hallucinogenic drugs (we don’t think). There are colour changing lights and a fantastic soundtrack but most importantly there’s gin (but also plenty of wine, beer and other spirit choices). This is a dive bar, not a speakeasy, founder Charlie McVeigh has promised that there won’t be any cocktails served in teacups, instead they are served in brown medicine bottles and kept cool in ice filled glass laboratory beakers.
Our Bump Spirit Course was accurately described as The Big One or the Distill Your Own Gin course to give it its official, slightly less exciting name. You’ll find a full list of courses and prices are at the bottom of this post by the way. Seven of us bloggers and proper food writers, sat not really knowing what to expect in a golden ‘tunnel’ amongst weird bottled liquids, glass beakers, tall measuring tubes and dried herbs and spices. Saff was gutted she forgot to wear her G&T perfume for the occasion – yes it really does exist.
The charismatic and passionate Max introduced himself and instantly won over the crowd by serving us an incredible Drenched Martini (not dry, not wet – somewhere in between) made with the most spectacular in-house made gin and vermouth. In fact they try to make everything themselves, the bottled water is filtered and purified and also used for making their ice-cubes. They also make an amazing tonic water.
Like I said earlier Max’s official title is Brand Development Manager, but he likes to be known as the Bump Chemist, Distiller or Rectifier. We think of him as a slightly crazy genius scientist. And what he doesn’t know about gin and the distillation process really isn’t worth knowing. Max ran through the history of gin, hundreds of years in about 15 fun fact-filled minutes. I’m not going into detail as, A) as it will spoil it for you and B) my notes got harder to decipher as time passed and the gin flowed.
So the table had ten bottles of different botanicals (over proof alcohol infused with herbs, bark, berries etc – basically plant matter!) that we sampled and sniffed and mixed together. Like a class of chemistry students we exactly measured our choice of botanicals under the very careful guidance of Max. He had to do this, for included in the price is a bottle of our very own unique gin to take home and if left to our own devices it would probably only be suitable for cleaning the sink, or possibly stripping paint. On top of this you receive a bottle of Bump Caves Victory Gin (ironically named after the terrible gin from George Orwell’s 1984).
Before the next stage of the masterclass we were treated to a Bumped G&T £6 made with BUMP #1 Hop Gin and BUMP Tonic. Without question the best gin and tonic we’ve ever had, no other will ever compare, Saff said that she doesn’t want to drink a G&T from anywhere else now which could be slightly tricky. This was swiftly followed by a Hon. Dashi £8 – Victory Gin, Chater Vermouth and Dashi Fortification and a chunk of parmesan. A real love it/hate it, slightly fishy kind of drink. Luckily for me, I loved it but Saff didn’t, nothing to do with the cheese – I think she was still swooning over the Bumped G&T.
But it was OK because the Amarosa £9 was yet to be unleashed – Px, Jensen Old Tom, Chater Amaro, Plum, A.E. Dor Xo — Balance Solute. A superb sweet cherry drink that comes in a diddy bottle and a plump cherry in the glass.
Next Max showed us how to use the rotary evaporator, more science and learning, although I just imagined that I was in Breaking Bad. Basically our mix of botanicals is evaporated and cooled, collected and added to base neutral grain spirit and then bottled for us to enjoy at home, or on the train home (not really). While the rotary evaporator worked its magic we tucked into a meat and cheese board with charcuterie from Cannon and Cannon and cheese from Neal’s Yard Dairy.
If that wasn’t enough, you’re entitled to three, yes three, more cocktails. I could only manage one more drink – a Beer and a Bump. This is where Max pairs a spirit based drink with one of the Draft House guest beers, like food and wine pairing, only better! My beer was an unfeasibly dark Mikkeller, whilst the Bump was chocolate and rum £11.50. Saff ordered the awkwardly entitled TOØL + Ølerpbliken – Total Hubris beer with a Bump of asparagus, bitter orange peel and coriander seed, £9. These pairings change regularly so these may or may not be on the menu when you visit.
We all staggered out clutching our bottles of gin and buzzing with excitement at all that we had learnt, and all that we had drunk. Two bottles of gin, three mixed gin drinks, up to three cocktails and a brilliant few hours with the infectiously likeable Max, all for £95pp. Brilliant value, maybe the air is laced with hallucinogenic drugs after all…
BUMP SPIRIT COURSES start in October 2014.
The Vermouth evening: £19.75pp
Max takes you through the history of the drink and how to make three trademark BUMP vermouth cocktails, the Hi-Bye, the Neon Dust and the Chinese Double Smoke.
The Gin night: £24.75pp
For gin aficionados, is all about the secrets of gin and you get to make three BUMP gin cocktails, the Bumped G&T, The Hon. Dashi and the Amarosa.
The Distill your own Gin night: £95pp
The big one – Max teaches guests how to distil their own gin, using the Bump Cave’s very own Rotary evaporator. Formulate your own unique gin recipe from base neutral grain spirit and 10 different botanicals. Take home a bottle of your own creation, plus a bottle of the Bump Caves’s Victory Gin. There’s a demonstration for three mixed gin drinks including the BUMPed G&T. A meat and cheese board with charcuterie from Cannon and Cannon and cheese from Neal’s yard is served along with up to three cocktails each.
208 Tower Bridge Road,
London SE1 2UP
For bookings e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 07725630212
Opening hours: Wednesday-Saturday 5pm – late
Nearest station: London Bridge (11 mins walk) or Tower Hill (14 mins walk)
We visited as guests of Bump Caves, this does not affect our review in any way.
We always write with complete honesty.