29 March 2011

Tokonoma: Monkey Shoulder triple malt whisky launch, Surry Hills (28 Mar 2011)

490 Crown Street, Surry Hills NSW 2010

Monkey business at toko

Monkey Shoulder is made in small batches (27 casks) from three of the finest Speyside single malt whiskies including Glenfiddich and Balvenie. It is then aged in first fill American oak bourbon barrels to give it a softer, smoother and richer taste with zesty, citrus flavours, oak notes and just a hint of spice.

Thanks to Krystyna Frassetto from Weber Shandwick for inviting to me to the launch of this triple malt whisky Monkey Shoulder supported by a very cheeky monkey advertising campaign including a chain linking ritual of 3000 toy monkeys to set a Guinness Book of Record. To be honest I’m not a huge whisky drinker because I’m not a fan of the rocket fuel effect but have tried an 18 year old Glenfiddich neat with a single cube of ice with some success. Having Monkey Shoulder in a cocktail made it a lot more palatable for my liking but I could still appreciate its relative smoothness when tried on its own compared to your cheaper blended whisky. Six cocktails were specifically created by Dean Callan (Global Brand Ambassador) and Benito Drovandi (Toko Bar Manager) to showcase Monkey Shoulder’s versatility.

First up was a refreshing Saru caprioska muddled with fresh pineapple, lemon wedges and house-made vanilla & ginger sugar. Probably one of the sweetest cocktails of the night but not overly so and would go down well on a hot day. The Monkey Shoulder was subtle on the taste buds. Next was Smoked monkey mule with a bespoke smoked lime ginger beer and a whisper of bittersweet shiso. It had a nice slightly caramelised taste for me and I’m a fan of ginger beer so I thought it combined well. Third cocktail before official speeches was Macaca fuscata with a combination of bitter-orange falernum, orange blossom water, citrus juices and egg white, crowned with soda. Probably better suited for the ladies and I found it just a bit too frothy for my liking.

Half way through the night Dean Callan introduced Monkey Shoulder on its own and talked about its finer qualities. He also demonstrated a few of his favourite cocktails including the Monkey Diablo which required a theatrical flaming orange peel — be careful doing this one at home. Resuming back to the fourth cocktail was the Boulevardier with campari bitters and antica formula over cracked ice. Simple and direct flavours with orange overtones — something to definitely get the taste buds active as an aperitif. A Chocolate martinez was next served in a martini glass made with sweet vermouth, chocolate bitters and maraschino liqueur which ended up being my favourite of the night. Good balance of smooth flavours and taking full advantage of the smooth whisky notes. The final cocktail of Malted monkey flip with drunken apricots, yebisu beer ice cream and barrel aged bitters was creamy in texture not to dissimilar to a light Baileys I thought.

To equally match the well-crafted cocktails there was a selection of excellent canapés from the Toko kitchen. Nicely salted Edamame were in plentiful supply and well flavoured. The Spicy maguro maki, California maki and Cucumber avocado maki were nicely made and melted in your mouth with the right amount of flavour. I loved the Crispy fried squid which was tender and lightly coated in perfect crispiness — definitely would order this one again. The BBQ beef fillet skewers were nicely flavoured and decently tender. Delightful looking Wild snapper served with ponzo sauce was evidently fresh but I wasn’t too sure about the finely shaved pork crackling which gave an uncomfortable gritty texture to the bite. Seared beef was tender and tasty and the White fish tempura was perfectly coated in a crispy batter and nicely bite sized. I certainly will have to add Toko to my wish list to try more of their dishes in their chic looking restaurant buzzing with atmosphere and busy open kitchens.

Monkey’s History
Monkey Shoulder’s unusual title is rooted in malt whisky history. The skill of the malt man is demonstrated when he turns the malting barley with a shiel (wooden shovel). Years ago the term ‘monkey shoulder’ referred to a temporary strain suffered by distillery workers when turning the malting barley by hand. Thankfully, the injury has been consigned to the past, but today the name lives on as an affectionate tribute to the malt men’s labour and recognition of the times they suffered for their art.

RRP $48.99 (Triple Malt Scotch, 700mL, 40% ABV)

PROS: Monkey Shoulder widely available and for the discerning whisky drinker who doesn’t just mix it with Coca-Cola, Restaurant has nice décor, lighting and uses quality ingredients, Event service staff was friendly and food was well distributed in a timely manner
CONS: Probably expensive for the quality, Very popular restaurant so might have to book in advance
MUST TRY: Chocolate martinez cocktail, Crispy fried squid, California maki, Drinking good whisky neat or with only a single ice cube to fully appreciate it’s quality

World record monkey link

At least 3000 monkeys linked in a single chain

The cocktails
Saru caprioska: Monkey shoulder muddled with fresh pineapple, lemon wedges and house-made vanilla & ginger sugar

Smoked monkey mule: Monkey shoulder served tall with a bespoke smoked lime ginger beer and a whisper of bittersweet shiso

Macaca fuscata: Monkey shoulder fizzed ramos style with a combination of bitter-orange falernum, orange blossom water, citrus juices and egg white, crowned with soda

Monkey Shoulder straight up

Boulevardier: Monkey shoulder stirred lovingly with campari bitters and antica formula over cracked ice

Chocolate martinez: Monkey shoulder and sweet vermouth thrown together with chocolate bitters and maraschino liqueur

Malted monkey flip: Monkey shoulder flipped through the jungle tarzan-like with drunken apricots, yebisu beer ice cream and barrel aged bitters

The canapes

Spicy maguro maki, California maki, Cucumber avocado maki

Crispy fried squid

Wild snapper

BBQ beef fillet skewers

Seared beef

White fish tempura

Head Chef Regan Porteous

Dean Callan (Global Brand Ambassador) demonstrating how to make a Monkey Diablo cocktail

Bar and cocktails

The drinkers

The bar
Street entrance

Seating and bar

The restaurant

The goodies
Goodie bag

Promotional posters — cheeky monkey indeed

4.5 litre bottle makes a lot of cocktails

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Toko on Urbanspoon


Dumpling Girl said...

I loved barrel of monkeys when I was a kid, it's been a while since I've seen them :) The BBQ beef fillet skewers look so good, making me very hungry right now.

Distant Thunder Whisky Club said...

Wow so a whisky is launched/introduced here in Sydney and local whisky club blogs are not even notified. No respect to this one sorry.

Tina@foodboozeshoes said...

You got a Barrel of Monkeys?! Cool..! I'm no whisky fan either, but know plenty of them

susan said...

Oh I love Toko, never been to tokonoma though. Looks much better than the car place that used to be there! Even if my old company built the place...

Simon Leong said...

hi dumpling girl, i never had them myself but i was catching up on lost time at this event.

hi distant thunder whisky club, i definitely think you guys should have been there being such passionate lovers of whisky. i think you should contact them for a sample to taste test at your club.

hi tina, i know a few whisky lovers as well. it's a hard one for me to appreciate straight but i'm slowly learning.

hi susan, i remember that car place before. tokonoma was a pretty cool place to chill out. nice decor and lighting.

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