Wednesday 9 December 2020

The Cocktail Man - Cocktail kits at home subscription box review

Many of us are missing going out to bars during lockdown – the atmosphere, the company, but also the cocktails carefully crafted by bartenders. Though I have to admit that I have barely been out to a bar since becoming a parent and even before that it wasn’t a regular occurrence – but I do love a proper cocktail that’s more than just a spirit and a mixer. A few months back I decided to treat myself to something I came across online, which aims to fill this particular gap. The Cocktail Man is professional mixologist James Vyse who quit his job at a top bar in London to create this new subscription service bringing you cocktail making kits at home.

You can choose your favourite cocktail as a one-off treat or a gift for someone else, or you can choose a subscription package where a different cocktail kit each month makes its way through your door. I have had two now, as part of a six-month subscription, and can confirm that the cocktails are delicious. However, the package changed after the first month and I do think these are a little on the expensive side – even though they are still cheaper than paying for cocktails of this quality in a bar!

What do you get in the Cocktail Man box?

Each month, the pack brings you everything you need to make five cocktails. That includes three miniature bottles of spirits, and a bottle of the Cocktail Man’s own recipe ‘sliqueur’ (which I think might be a ‘secret liqueur’ but I couldn't see an explanation for the name) – this is a flavoured liqueur that is basically what makes the cocktail something unique, plus a garnish and a recipe card. The three cocktails I have had so far are:

Raspberry Rose Gin Fizz: miniature bottles of gin, plus raspberry and rose sliqueur, and dried rose buds to garnish

Blueberry and lavender sour: vodka, blueberry and lavender sliqueur, and lavender sprigs to garnish.

Rhubarb and ginger negroni: gin, campari, rhubarb and ginger sliqueur, and dehydrated orange slices to garnish.

The recipe cards also explain what fresh ingredients you need; the first two both needed an egg white which isn’t something I would normally put in a drink, but as long as you shake it up enough, works just fine. The blueberry and lavender sour is served neat, whereas the raspberry rose gin fizz is topped up with tonic water; which wasn’t on the initial list of ingredients on the recipe card so luckily I read the whole thing before I started making it, or I would have gotten to the end and realised I had no tonic water! 

A negroni is usually too bitter for me and the rhubarb sliqueur did sweeten it somewhat, and I liked the hint of orange, but again I would prefer a sweeter cocktail. The garnishes give a nice final touch but what I liked most was that these tasted like proper premium cocktails. I preferred the raspberry rose gin fizz as I like a sweeter cocktail – I’m hoping that next time I get either the champagne cosmopolitan or the mango and passion fruit mojito!

What are the cocktails like?

Delicious – like something you would get in a high end bar. I’m not talking jug of sex on the beach – but the sort of drink I’ve enjoyed at the Dorchester or the Skylon bar in the South Bank Centre. With the garnish as well they look the part (providing you have suitable glassware – by the way, you also need a cocktail shaker). The mixers are minimal so these are strong cocktails too – a little goes a long way.

How is it packaged?

In an attractive blue strong cardboard box, with the bottles neatly arranged so you can see what you’ve got at a glance. There was also a postcard with a message from the Cocktail Man about the inspiration for this particular cocktail and the recipe card. Initially, there were two options however, of a standard and premium subscription; my subscription was upgraded from the former to the latter after some delivery issues. The standard box was similar but packaged in a plain white box, with a removal blue sleeve, and without the postcard. These feel like a luxury treat when they arrive and would make a lovely gift.

What does it cost?

Currently at the time of writing on the Cocktail Man website, an individual kit is between £34.99 and £36.99, a three month subscription is £79.99 (reduced from £98.97), six months £149.99 (reduced from £197.94) and 12 months is £279.99, down from the usual price of £395.88. That sounds expensive, and in fact since I started drafting this blog post the prices have actually gone up - but given each kit makes five cocktails, a one-off at £32.99 (including postage) sets you back £7 per cocktail – you’d pay nearly twice that in some high end bars. On a six month subscription, it’s less than £5 per drink, and for 12 months, that falls to under £4.70. Of course, you also have to take into account the fact that you are making these cocktails yourself at home – and a fair amount of the bar price would go towards covering overheads. I got a special offer via Facebook so look out for voucher codes so I feel like I got a bargain based on the current prices - and am looking forward to my next few boxes of cocktails!


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