A Smirnoff-ly Russian New Year

I don’t know how people found out that I like cocktails. I do, of course, but until recently I hardly ever drank them. First up, they’re expensive and I hate going home after a Big Night Out, only to wake the following day with drums in my head and an empty wallet because paying a tenner for a cocktail seemed like a good idea at the time. Of course there’s the Catch 22 that once you’ve had a couple of mojitos or mai thais, then shots, glorious shots are the obvious way forward, but it’s really just the fastest way to incredible pain the following day. The last reason behind my not drinking cocktails on a regular basis is the fact that I adore grape products (read ‘wine’).

Having said all that, I have certainly enjoyed some wonderful times with cocktail in hand. There was the university pal who paid his way through his degree by shaking cocktails at a popular bar in Auckland, where I grew up. He was a handy person to know in holiday time because he’d blend us the most wonderful drinks as we chilled out on beanbags overlooking beautiful New Zealand lakes, or as we decadently lazed on beaches or by friends’ pools. This particular cocktail shaker had a full repertoire but, in my opinion, his best concoction by far was the Mississippi Mudslide – a dangerously tasty frozen chocolate milkshake made with Kahlua and Baileys. Years later, when abandoned on Mustique (there’s a long story there) the barman at the boutique Firefly Hotel didn’t know how to make me a Mudslide, so I taught him and thereafter it was on their menu, named after me. Then again, that was a while ago. They may well have changed the cocktail list by now. What a fabulous excuse to go back and check.

Now, it would seem Epicurienne is undergoing a cocktail revival. When I signed up for the London Bloggers’ Meetup, ‘Blogology’, last year, I never knew I’d end up with my very own personalised cocktail named after my blog AND a whole bunch of New Best Friends at Splendid Communications. That night, my fellow bloggers and I were treated to bespoked cocktails and different variations on the Moscow Mule theme. On leaving, our Smirnoff Red goodie bag contained a kit of everything we needed to make our own Mules at home. All I can say is I’m lovin’ it like that and the kit didn’t last too long.

Then, just before Christmas, another Splendid Communications care package came along: a bottle of Margaritas and a super-swish cocktail glass. Epic Brother and I thoroughly enjoyed working our way through that. But now, dear readers, we move on to something a bit more sophisticated: an evening with Smirnoff Black at Plateau’s Ice Bar in Canary Wharf. 


Rebecca Graham is the Splendid-ly Bad Influence who invited me along to this particular event, and it was special indeed. For a start, it required me travelling from my workplace in West London all the way across town to Canary Wharf of tall tower fame. In all my years in London, I’d never set foot in Canary Wharf until now; I’d never had any reason to go there. Quite simply, I don’t work in The City, I don’t socialise at Canary Wharf, and I don’t have much interest in visiting at weekends when tumbleweed rolls through its streets. But on this particular evening, the promise of cocktails lured me away from my regular beat and into the warren of activity beneath that beacon of the London skyline.


We met at Plateau, a smart restaurant overlooking Canary Wharf’s ice rink, passing through glass doors into the Ice Bar, a covered terrace that would be home to Smirnoff Black for the night. Behind the bar, top UK mixologist and Smirnoff Black brand ambassador, Tristan Stephenson, shook his stuff. I later learned that he’s one of the foremost cocktail bloggers in the UK. Perusing the list of possibilities, I couldn’t resist something called a Choccochilli which was nothing short of wickedness in a glass, comprising Smirnoff Black, chocolate and fresh chilli. Fellow blog-buddy, TikiChris, raved about his Butterfly Martini, a refreshing blend of Smirnoff Black, elderflower, apple juice, basil and mint. I was even lucky enough to steal a quick glug from his glass and was so pleased I did because it tasted of summer.


Next on my list was a Smirnoff 74, which is termed a shot but which Tristan poured into a champagne flute. This, too, was quite special, consisting of Smirnoff Black (no surprise there), lemon, gomme and house bubbly. TikiChris went for a Strawberry and Basil Mule, made with our New Favourite Vodka, strawberry, basil, lime and ginger beer, and when Monsieur joined us, he tried the Lemon Drop shot of Smirnoff Black, cointreau and lemon juice.


All the while, Plateau staff passed around platter after platter of delicious hors d’oeuvres, my favourite being the mini fish ‘n’ chips in a cup. And just when we’d decided which cocktail to try next, Tristan closed the bar to give us a vodka lesson. By this time, it was really quite chilly so some of the group were huddled under furry rugs on the sofas. Monsieur and I were happy to stand, numb feet and all, as we first sniffed at shots of a Major Russian Vodka Brand and then tasted it. To this ill-educated palate, it tasted just like a shot of vodka should, but when the Smirnoff Black came along I was surprised at how subtle and smooth its aroma and taste were by comparison. In fact, the difference was so severe that on sniffing the Russian shot again, it seemed to reek of something very chemical indeed. In fact, engine fuel sprang to mind.


You can see more vodka fans reviewing Smirnoff Black here… Like one fan on that site I’d recommend trying it  neat, because that way you’ll definitely be able to tell the difference.

The evening at Plateau was certainly an interesting exercise, but this was a school night, so we had to get home, and from the outpost of Canary Wharf home seemed like a long way away. As we left, the Splendid folk gave us each a Russian doll with a bottle of Smirnoff Black inside. After all, tonight was Russian New Year (according to the Eastern Orthodox Church and Gregorian Calendar), so clinking shot glasses filled with vodka was certainly an appropriate way to celebrate! Only next time, we’ll have to insist on caviar… dahlink.


Photos by TikiChris (thanks for saving the day – my camera was misbehaving… )

Useful links:

Smirnoff Black

Splendid Communications

Tristan Stephenson


Canary Wharf

The Smirnoff Black Collins





40ml Smirnoff Black vodka


20ml Fresh lemon juice


20ml sugar syrup


80ml Soda



Shake Smirnoff, lemon juice and sugar, strain over crushed ice and top with good quality soda water






Lemon Wedge

Units of Alc.


2 Comments Add yours

  1. Seems great but how did you feel the next day?

    Is that Monsieur making a goofy face at the shaker?


  2. epicurienne says:

    Hi Nat – funnily enough, we felt absolutely fine because we didn’t actually drink that much. As for the goofy face – that’s Tristan, cocktail afficionado extraordinaire. Every home should have one!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s