Review: MadLab at Madison & Smoky Cocktails at Threadneedle Bar

As promised, what follows is my verdict on MadLab: the molecular cocktail masterclasses at Madison, London and on Smoky Cocktails at Threadneedle Bar, the Royal Exchange. For those readers who missed the previews for each, visit: and

So, without further ado…

MadLab at Madison: this molecular cocktail masterclass was like nothing I had ever experienced before; it truly is an event for science geeks and drink connoisseurs to unite. Guests are asked to don a white lab coat and are led behind the bar where an array of scientific beakers and measuring equipment waits for them. If you have not already guessed from these opening lines, this masterclass is very hands on and practical, it is up to you, not the barman assigned to your group, to measure out each ingredient for your chosen cocktail and to trigger a reaction! Guests can select three Absolut Elyx Vodka based cocktails to work on from a list of nine, so as to create a new molecular twist on classic cocktails that they can then drink. My group and I personally opted for the ‘Cardamom & Pineapple’, the ‘Cosmopolitan’, and last but certainly not least (my weakness), the ‘Pornstar Martini’. What was clear was the passion of both barmen; their enthusiasm was so infectious that my group and I felt like they were part of our party and we were all there for a night out together! We were lucky enough to have the main barman Fred (his French accent personally made my night), who made it clear that cocktail making is a careful process of balancing, mixing and measuring ingredients and that the presentation of each cocktail is a work of art. Every cocktail came with its own personality, a specifically shaped glass, and its own garnish (the Pornstar Martini was finished with a delicate and edible flower!). The science theme gave the masterclass that extra edge over other cocktail classes as guests are taught to master three molecular techniques: carbonation, infusion, and foam- the details of which follow after this section.

Overall, MadLab is an immersive and unique experience for a night out in London that you will never forget.

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Foam: guests learn how to make a foam with the help of a blender and vegan emulsifying/stabiliser agent using a nitrous oxide cartridge. They then learn how to integrate the foam into a cocktail.

Infusion: guests learn to make an instant infusion with a cream whipper and a nitrous oxide cartridge. They then create a cocktail with the infused spirit and learn how to use a torch to caramelise the garnish.

Carbonation: guests learn how to master a carbonated cocktail with a cream whipper and CO2 cartridge, before using the torch to scorch the garnish.

MadLab is available for groups of 8, £30 per head. For more details, visit:


Smoky Cocktails: the clue is in the name when it comes to these cocktails; the distinctive smell of smoke which often triggers memories of summer barbecues and camping fires was the inspiration behind the launch of these cocktails. Having spoken to the two fathers of this range, I was impressed to learn that the cocktails were the result of months’ worth of work, taking into consideration the ingredients to go into each cocktail, how to present the cocktails and how to ensure they were worthy of the title of ‘Smoky’. My friend and I were blown away by the detail of each cocktail, such as hand written labels on the jars and bottles, as well as original and quirky garnishes- including a bamboo leaf all the way from Hong Kong! The barmen showed and told us about every ingredient that went into each cocktail, and asked us our tastes before suggesting a specific cocktail from the menu that would tailored to us as individuals. My friend and I were touched by how attentive and friendly the barmen were and again like with MadLab, their passion for their job and their cocktails was infectious; we left raving about the unique cocktails and the process behind each. First, the cocktail is prepared in a chosen glass. Second, a larger glass jar is placed over the cocktail and wood smoke is pumped in before the jar is closed over the cocktail. When you are ready to drink your cocktail the outer jar is removed to allow the smoke to evaporate. You are left with a perfectly infused cocktail with a robust flavour to compliment the intrinsically smoky ingredients used in each such as whisky and mezcal.

Overall: each cocktail comes with its own personality and the experience itself is truly immersive and one that is ‘burnt’ into your memory (pardon the pun).

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Here is a list of cocktails guests can choose from:

Smoky Mandarin- Black Label whisky, Mandarin Napoleon liqueur, Talisker 10yo, cinnamon sugar

Mexican Negroni- Mezcal, Campari, Martini Rosso

The White Lord- Tanqueray Gin, Suze, Martini Bianco

The Lumberjack- Woodford Reserve infused with bacon, maple syrup, orange and angostura bitters

The Art of Rum- Ron Zacapa 23yo, cherry liqueur, banana syrup, orange bitters

All cocktails on the smoky menu are priced at £12.00 each. For more information, visit:

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