You can always trust the Artesian crew to come up with a show stopping new cocktail menu. What direction it will take though is anybody’s guess. This year they’ve gone for Surrealism. And as you can imagine, in the bright and brilliant, some might say bordering on bonkers minds of Alex Kratena and Simone Caporale, it’s something unique, something very special.
“We liked the idea of surrealism, it has so much potential,” says Alex two weeks before the menu launches and Instagram invariably goes into meltdown. “We wanted a theme that gave us enough creative freedom and as nothing has to be logical with surrealism, that really excited us.”
Salvador Dalí’s Cookbook Les Diners De Gala was an invaluable reference point. “We clubbed together to buy it, it wasn’t cheap and we didn’t really think we could justify the cost with the hotel!” laughs Alex. That’s as maybe, but as far as inspiration for their menu goes, it was priceless. “Dalí used to throw spectacularly lavish dinners featuring elaborate dishes like lambs brains with avocado and tequila,” he continues. “The book contains the recipes as well as Dali’s drawings – the only thing they screwed up were the drinks. We were surprised that it contained cocktails at all, but they were very basic. So we’ve devised a menu where the liquid plays against the rules. We’ve taken all the surrealist symbols and created surrealist flavours, flavours that don’t exist.”
The menu itself is pared back and very classical, like those featured in the surrealist gala dinners: “We’ve experimented with crazy expensive Japanese paper and spinning wheels but we’ve never worked with wood before,” says Alex. This isn’t any old bit of wood mind, it’s chic, laser-engraved gold lettering on a piece of handsome dark oak, designed to set the scene for the sensory experience ahead.
There are 19 in total. We tried almost half of them. Not through choice you understand but because most of the service ware was still in transit… Each one is very different and unique in presentation, thought process and profile and comes with its own hashtag to describe the mood and flavour profile of the drink. #awesome
Anti Hero #FeelingLikeARockStar
Don Julio Reposado, Muscat, gentian, verjus, smoke, blood orange
Ever had a cocktail served from an elephant made from Lego? We have and had it makes for a super cool experience. Like the elephants in Dalí’s paintings (elephants denote dominance in surrealism), the Artesiant (our word, not theirs) has long, spindly legs with the power packed in the body. In this case that’s the drink, tequila carefully blended into a very quaffable aromatic concoction – light but packing a flavoursome punch.
Parking the drink aside for a sec, here’s a fun but totally useless fact: the Lego website crashed for 24 hours when Alex and Simone were ordering the 700 components required for their prototype (see above). “We were ordering 200 pieces at a time, the website couldn’t cope! No-one orders Lego like Alex and Simone!”
Join The Colony#FeelingExcited
Absolut Elyx, wheat, almond, juniper, bergamot
We think this will be the ‘pineapple’ from the last menu. Visually it’s a stunner – what’s not to love about a giant copper ant bearing a cracking-tasting cocktail? In Dalí’s world, the ant represents decadence, something the team have adhered to by creating an opulent serve. Their giant cootie bears two cups; one containing a granola mix made from freeze-dried wild strawberries, pistachios and roasted salted corn at the front, to the rear there’s a wheat/almond milk concoction chilling on ice. Add both together for a wondrous drinking experience filled with texture and aroma, or as Alex describes it, “classic Nordic flavours blended with modern perfumery.”
Suspended in Time #FeelingPretty
Star of Bombay, lime, niaouli, yarrow, palmarosa
Forget what the fashion pages say, THIS is a cocktail ring… Teardrop forms feature in several of Dalí’s works. Here the shape is replicated in a glass suspended in a net. Attach it to a sapphire ring for the wearer to slip on to their finger and shazzam!, you’ve got a serious piece of cocktail bling. As for the liquid, it’s light, fresh and perfumed – very pretty indeed. And as its designed for the wearer to carry to the table dangling from their finger, or perch at the bar, it’s also very clever. We predict marriage proposals coming soon…
Spring Drifting Into Summer #feelingawesome
Ketel One, shochu, artichoke, coffee, passion fruit, coriander
Did you know that coffee and artichoke work well in a cocktail? It’s quite the revelation. Not only do the savoury accents play with your mind trying to identify the flavour, so too does the vessel its served in. No gulping with this one – it’s designed for the drinker to cup and contemplate. Think of it as classic glassware melted into the landscape – it’s like diving into a pool of deliciousness.
Fast Money Comes At A Dangerous Price #FeelingSurprised
Johnnie Walker Gold, Chamomile, Vetiver, Sandalwood, Kombucha
Boxes and drawers convey secret desires in surrealism. How do Alex and Simone replicate that in drink form? By serving a cocktail in a gold lacquered bento box designed to echo the cover of Dalí’s cookery book, that’s how. The drink is concealed beneath a scattering of black pebbles, on top of which sit three parmesan crisps to dry the palate before you get to the liquid. Visually, it’s all very soothing, calming – very zen. And the taste doesn’t disappoint either…
Death Of The Hipster #FeelingSilly
Workshop coffee, jasmine, tonic, oak smoke, elderflower
One of those clever non-alcoholic cocktails that will appeal whether you’re on the sauce or not. There’s complexity, there’s effervescence, there’s drinkability. One to perk up the palate at any time of day. Or night.
Your Room, Or Mine? #FeelingNaughty
Glenfiddich 15 Year Old, Becherovka, Pineau des Charentes
Who needs chat up lines when you can say exactly what’s on your mind with this sexy drink? Talk about sensual, it’s positively x-rated. Cup the fur coaster in your hands, take the vessel to your mouth (crystal coated with 18t gold if you don’t mind) and the first thing that hits you is the intoxicating scent – Hermés Jardin de Monsieur Li spritzed into the fabric. Next, take a sip. We guarantee it will play with your mind. Whereas the aroma you get from the fragrance is flirty, almost floral, once you go into the drink it’s deeper, sexier, bold and masculine, it’s a heady mingling of the sexes. “You’re already kissing by the time you’ve ordered this one,” says Alex. “Who knows what will happen next?” Let’s just say it’s the perfect drink to have in an hotel.
The #Surrealism2015 menu launches at Artesian on 2nd July. All alcoholic drinks priced £18; non-alcoholic drinks £10.
Artesian at The Langham, 1c Portland Place, London W1B 1JA. T: 020 7636 1000. artesian-bar.co.uk