It’s like that irksome second album thing: how do you follow up a big hit with something equally crowd pleasing? Or, and here’s an even bigger ask, have you got what it takes to make your next offering better than the huge success that went before?
Artesian have. Just when you thought the team behind the best bar in the world (official) might have exhausted itself with all the creative madness and downright clever jiggery-pokery that goes into each of its menus, up they come with another totally brilliant drinks list.
What’s the story?
Called Unfolding & Exploring, the 18-strong menu is a lesson in wonderment and delight. “Every year we come up with a new theme for the menu,” says Alex Kratena. “Last year it was perfume and scent, which was very complete, so this year we wanted to do something very different, something very abstract. The idea of unfolding and exploring is basically unfolding new ideas and playing with things, places and flavours we haven’t explored before.”
Expect the unexpected and prepare for lots of ‘oohs’, ‘ahhs’ and most importantly ‘mmms’ as you work your way through the menu.
How it works
It’s taken almost a year and cost around £85,000 to complete, trust us this is something special. Set on Japanese textured paper, the bespoke menu (yours to take home) unfolds to reveal 18 intriguing cocktails.
Apart from the key ingredients not much is given away from the names of the drinks: Dream Within A Dream, Instant Crush, Love & Death and Under My Skin, for instance. Your best bet is to look out for the three little lines that sit beside each cocktail – they’re your guide to the depth of the drink.
“We wanted it to be like a tasting menu in a restaurant,” explains Alex. “We wanted the cocktail to be like an experience from A to B right through to Z. Taking our inspiration from restaurants, the idea is for the guest to create their own tasting menu depending on how they feel. So, for instance, they might choose a couple of starters, one main, plus a dessert. The more lines next to a cocktail, the more character it has – we don’t refer to light or refreshing etc, that’s all been done before. One statement we do make is we’re listing non-alcoholic and alcoholic drinks together – we’ve created them to be just as complex as the other cocktails on the list.”
Digidiva: see photo at top of page (Absolut Elyx, cypress, Aqua Di Cedro – lines: 1)
This palate cleanser was borne out of the team’s fascination with chefs and plating food. The idea is that the drink evolves as you taste it – starting with the edible garnishes that will change depending on what their foragers bring in each week in accordance with the seasons. “The design of the vessel was very important and every component has been carefully thought out. It’s hi-tech but also very practical as guests can take the drink out of the cradle if they’re drinking it at the bar.” Light, fresh and citrusy.
Camouflage: (Tanqueray No. TEN, Americano, carrot, Kambucha, sandalwood – lines: 2)
“The Langham opened in 1865 and Tanqueray was established in the same era,” explains Alex. “The pineapple is a symbol of hospitality and while the cocktail is presented in a pineapple, as you know at Artesian, nothing is what it seems.” He’s not kidding. The cocktail opens up to reveal layers of aromatic sandalwood and citrus all bound together with one of our favourite gins.
Will of the Woods: (Glenlivet, larch, mushrooms, citrus, honey – lines: 2)
How would the forest floor taste in a quality liquid? Close your eyes, cup your hands around the smooth wooden bowl this cocktail is presented in and take a deep inhalation of the woody aroma of the whisky infused with ceps, citrus, honey, pine and pickled mushroom and you’ll find out. Light but warm and smoky.
Selfie Compatible: (Zacapa, Floc De Gascogne, Verjus, beer, bitters – lines: 2)
“Not everything needs to be imbibed, some things can be inhaled,” says Alex as the cylinder of smoke housing an asymmetric cocktail glass is presented at the table. Guests are invited to suck through the chocolatey smoke and swirl it around in the mouth before sipping the liquid. Here’s where the two elements combine, creating a heady mix of rich chocolate from the smoke further enhanced by the agreeable balance of rum and beer.
Magician: (Becherovka, cherry, smoke, jasmine – lines: 2)
Presented in a special cup from Czech Republic with an inbuilt straw in the handle, this particular cocktail is designed to reveal a new taste with every sip, changing from red fruits and cherry to jasmine and smoke.
What is Agugu?!: (Don Julio, mezcal, chipotle, xoxolatl, golden nugget – lines: 3)
Talk about indulgent, this rich chococlatey blend of mezcal and tequila, sweet vermouth, chipotle and high-grade Mexican chocolate is the ultimate dessert as cocktail. Swizzled and poured in front of the guests at the table the thick, intense layers of chocolate, chilli and tequila dance around the palate very nicely. Prepare for a head rush.
The Unfolding & Exploring menu launches at the Artesian on Wednesday 2nd July. artesian-bar.co.uk
All alcoholic cocktails £16.50, all abv free cocktails £8.50.