Barocco is a bit of a hidden gem in Cardiff city centre. Down a side street in the modern shopping area of The Hayes, this stylish little cocktail bar is opulent yet friendly. It feels posh, but you don’t feel like you have to dress up or spend a fortune on a night there. Like the vast majority of pubs and bars in the city centre, it is owned by Wales’ leading brewer, Brains. Perhaps the most lavish of their Cardiff bars, with an enormous ornate mirror behind the bar towering all the way above the second floor mezzanine and the plush, high-backed booths, it has a bit of Moulin Rouge Paris about it.
On the cocktail menu is this concoction featuring the owning brewery’s standard golden ale, one of their best sellers:
That obviously isn’t a complete list of ingredients, as nobody in their right mind would pay that amount of money for a middle shelf gin splashed into a fairly standard golden ale brewed right around the corner. So I asked the lady behind the bar who told me that it includes a squeeze of lemon and a drop of Gomme Syrup, topped up with soda. So we’ve got the classic Tom Collins, just with the addition of beer. A simple idea, and a simple name to reflect that. It’s obvious from this, though, that the hop flavours are what they want to bring out from the beer Tom Collins variant here.
The drink was presented to me and I have to admit I was a little disappointed – the dimple mug has become somewhat of a hipster fashion accessory, an ironic statement harking back to the times beer was crap and dished out unceremoniously. It’s hardly a sophisticated method of presenting a dish, and when you’re paying more than an hours wages, you want some attention paid to the way your drink looks.
The liquid itself was pale beige. It didn’t look very appetising. There was next to nothing in the way of aroma. The beer was too cold to let the aromas off, and there was too much in the way of the gin to let it through either.
The botanical flavours of the gin came through without any of the typical dry, bitter flavours or the boozy heat of a spirit. The first thing I noticed was the lack of carbonation. Shaking a beer that is so subtley carbonated is going to remove any traces of fizz at all, and then the addition of soda has just fizzled away having been diluted in what is now flat beer. After the herbal notes comes the flavour of lemonade, with the lemon juice, gomme and soda combining to create just that. If any citrus hop flavours were there, they are drowned out by this syrupy lemon flavour. There’s a dryness in the finish, perhaps the gin kicking in and having a late charge, but it doesn’t carry any flavour with it. Once the lemonade flavour is gone, it’s just cold and wet – watery and bland.
There was no trace of the beer really, so it’s not hard to say that this drink certainly doesn’t elevate its constituent parts. The hop notes, the flavours you’d expect to be elevated in a drink called the Hoppy Collins, are simply not there. It’s not worth the money at all. You’d be better off spending it on two different rounds, one for the beer and one for the gin.