Issue 163
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Bottle bag gifting seems to change very little from one Christmas to the next. If autopilot spirits like Gordons, Bacardi and Jameson are likely to incite the same insipid "thanks" this year, take the advice of Brum's grain and grape masters, all resident at bars or restaurants that specialise in the drop they speak to. 
Gin — 40 St Pauls
"Made by the most awarded Riesling winery in Germany, Ferdinand's blend their wine into the base of their gin and add 30 organically grown botanicals from their fertile grounds into the mix. For such complexity, their Saar Dry Gin is superbly well balanced and absolutely delicious. For a day-to-day go-to, Beefeater 24 has the name and the history behind it, and the taste to go with it."
Aman, owner
Rum — The Cuban Embassy
"Botran rum is a Guatemalan brand. Their white Reserva Blanca is especially interesting. If you drink it with your eyes closed you would think it's golden. It's the nicest white rum I've ever tasted and the only one I'll drink neat. Their 18-year-old golden is also excellent. It's a Solera, meaning it's a blend of different ages, with 18 being the oldest. This helps mellow the flavour, giving character not harshness."
- Nick, owner
Tequila — Bodega
"For its deep oaky aroma and rich taste, 1800 Añejo is my recommendation. Named after the first year tequila was produced, this variety is aged between eight and twelve years, with a minimum of fourteen months in French oak barrels. Though it's down to personal taste, it feels like a waste to drink this tequila anything but neat — which the smooth finish encourages you to do." 
- Louiza, assistant manager
Wine — Cheval Blanc
“At this time of year I love big, rich red wine and my favourite right now has to be the col. Mulscal Roos from BLANKbottle. Created by winemaker Peter Walser in the Western Cape, his wines are incredible because once they’re gone, they’re gone. He never makes the same wine twice. This one is a blend of Syrah and Grenache with a gorgeous rich, fruit filled palette and a finish that lasts and lasts."
- Abigail, GM and sommelier
Vodka — The Rose Villa Tavern
"Babička (Ba-bitch-ka) is all round bonkers, absolutely brilliant, and different to anything else on the market. The Original Wormwood Vodka purports to revive the magic of a 500-year-old Czech witches brew. Whether or not it bewitches you, it's a great product with a floral bouqet. Also consider Two Birds' Chrimbo spiced vodka — an absolute humdinger, that feels like you're eating a mince pie in front of an open fire." - Ian, GM
Bourbon — Prince of Wales
"Four Roses has scooped Distiller of the Year four times consecutively. Definitely a staff favourite, their Single Barrel offering has a higher alcohol content than you might be used to, being bottled at 50% ABV. But it's still remarkably smooth. This is due in part to the corn that goes into making the spirit, but also the unique yeast strain used by Four Roses, which is known to give Christmassy vanilla and caramel notes." - Jim, cocktail manager


Spinning a Star Wars yarn without the Skywalker family shouldn’t feel like a gamble, but Rogue One still somehow does. Does importing a darker tone, leaving out the space wizards and wholeheartedly embracing an aesthetic 39 years old work? Yes and no. The heist movie elements – just before Episode IV kicks off, Felicity Jones leads a band of misfits attempting to steal the plans of the original Death Star – are terrific, taking place amid the series’s best combat yet. Sadly, though, Jones speaks in her usual expensively-educated monotone, and there's a lot of shoe leather before the mission gets going – it’s not entirely clear, for example, why a visit to Forest Whitaker’s mentor figure is even in the film. That said, once things are up and running, there’s a pleasingly fresh sense of desperation and stakes absent from the more straightforward earlier films, as well as a tentative suggestion that the rebellion might not be morally unquestionable. Who could have imagined in the dark days of the prequels that the best element of a Star Wars film could be its ethical sophistication? Times & trailer


With the advance of global warming, there's increasing evidence to suggest that not so Jolly Saint Nick now completes a significant proportion of his journey by water. In reverence to the big man, and because dressing up makes normal activities wildly better, canoeists, kayakers, paddleboarders and coraclists will be taking over Brum's canals this Sunday, for an infinitely superior take on Santacon. Open to all, aquatic Santas should meet at Rotton Park Street at midday, from where they'll be heading to the water. After taking in the city centre — and presumably featuring in a rather sizeable number of piccies — the Canalside Cafe is the designated refreshment and turning point. More


Kings Heath landed a major blow in the great Moseley versus Kings Heath food and drink war. And it is a war. While latest openings in Mose are predominantly of the chainy variety, a superb indy coffee-shop-slash-bike-workshop-slash-sandwichery-slash-bar has opened in The Heath. Sure, it's niche, but when the coffee is so good you feel it down in your toes and the sandwiches are made with Peel & Stone bread, niche works. Rare wines include Oltre Passo, Primitivo, while local brewery Fixed Wheel are well represented in the beer fridge. Oh and if you've been daft enough to sign up for the 100 mile Velo Birmingham, Gorilla Coffee Cafe lead 30 mile cycle rides every Sunday. Training?
Venue: 1,000 Trades, 16 Frederick Street, B1 3HE; website
Choice: Roast topside of beef (£13) Chooser: It's roast beef!

When we say we're into roasts, there's a chart which breaks each Sunday experience down into six categories, penned by this hand. But it's been a while since we tried anywhere worthy of your immediate attention. As you approach 1,000 Trades, jazz spills into the street, then through the window, you see the fire. It was actually being stoked as we arrived. The mulled wine (with rum) gets you up to room temp in minutes, then the only decision left is a variation of beef, lamb or veggie. If it's on, opt for the the Shropshire organic topside of beef, which was served medium rare. Hiding heaps of seasonal vegginess under it, the Tempranillo-braised red cabbage and parsnips rated highest on our vitamin-ometer. The fresh horseradish and proper gravy were just right, and the team is genuinely happy to get you an extra jug if you're an out-and-out sauce fiend. In terms of sides, it's all about the cauliflower cheese (£2.50). Jazz and roasts run from 12pm Sundays, as is customary.
  • The Bulls Head opens next week on the site you may know better as the City Tavern. It's Davenports' first Brum opening in 30 years, and has pipped the team's new JQ and Moseley pubs to launch
  • The Coca-Cola truck will be in Brum on Saturday. We've got no idea what you do once you get to it but consider yourself duly informed
  • Bournville Farmers' Market and Christmas Gift Fayre is at Rowheath Pavilion, 10am til 3pm on Saturday. As well as the whole other people present thing, get a Hibiscus Food Co spicy goat burger for you.
  • Talented and loverly in equal measure, Emma Hardicker's having her first ever sample sale tomorrow (Friday), from 1pm til 7.30pm. Just ask for her when you get to Custard Factory reception
  • Cafe Opus at Ikon is closing. Sad face. Yorks' newest endeavour opens in the same spot come January. Happy (and bearded) face
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"The time to fight is now!" - Jyn Erso, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
WORDS: Katy Drohan, Andrew Lowry, Tom Cullen
IMAGES: Paddleboarding — SUPNorthUK

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