Head here if… you want to drink in classic surroundings
With World Class 2010 winner Erik Lorincz at the helm, the recently restored American Bar appeals to discerning drinkers of all ages.
First things first
It’s early Wednesday evening and there’s a queue snaking up the stairs. People are getting fidgety. Some obnoxious type decides he’s too posh to wait and flounces off declaring, far too loudly, he’s going to the Coal Hole. He’s hoping for a reaction but it doesn’t come. Why would it? As if there’s any comparison. As if anyone even cares. Right now everyone wants a piece of the refurbed American Bar and frankly, the Coal Hole doesn’t come close.
Ms S zones in on the Savoy Daisy created by current bar manager Daniel Barantheuer. It’s his take on the classic version in Harry Craddock’s famous Savoy Cocktail Book, using rum, molasses, sugar and ruby port “to bridge the gap between old and new.” It takes a while to appear but when it does, the drink is majestic to look at, that goes for the deep, ruby-coloured liquid to the elegant glassware. Actually, for elegant read heavy – this is real glass, none of your cheap rubbish. In fact, it’s so solid when filled with liquid, you give your arms a work-out just lifting it to your lips. The drink itself is full, rich and autumnal with a satisfyingly sweet finish.
The recommendation was for Sipsmith gin and it arrives looking pretty good, as in a nice fancy glass, but it’s not particularly cold. Moreover it has an olive rather than the requested twist. It turns out to be tasty enough, really just like a nice glass of gin, but not as special as Mr G would have hoped and, it could have been doing with being somewhat colder, with that essential twist.
Having tried the Bar Manager’s classic, Ms S wanted to see what Head Barman Erik Lorincz brings to the party. Fresh from the fabulous Connaught Bar and holder of the World Class 2010 crown, the odds are he’s going to deliver the goods. His Malecon (“Bacardi and lime paired with the rich fruit and nuttiness of aged port and sherry”) has won awards for its complexity and balance, so for Ms S, it’s an easy choice to go for. Although it belongs in the same family as her previous drink, the distinctive taste from the unique port and sherry combo sets it miles apart. There’s much more of a big boy alcoholic hit from this drink. It’s nice and tangy, with a fab dry finish that wakes up the mouth after the sweetness of the previous drink and it’s none the worse for it.
Meanwhile Mr G goes for the Hanky Panky. Ah, the Hanky Panky (Bombay Sapphire gin, Italian vermouth and Fernet Branca)…our lovely waitress recommends this as a good way to follow the martini. She’s very excited to tell us it was created by Ada Coleman, an American Bar original, for the Edwardian actor Sir Charles Hawtrey. Wow, it looks impressive, arriving in possibly the tallest cocktail glass we’ve ever seen, coming in at some 10inches (not that we had a tape measure but we’re good guessers). And it tastes good and flavoursome, but then Mr G is real sucker for Fernet Branca. Nice going.
And To Eat?
We weren’t particularly impressed with the nibbles on offer: a few mixed nuts and raisins, green and black olives – okay’ish but we hoped they could have pushed the boat out with something a bit more inventive.
Look Out For
Apart from Erik looking like a veritable cocktail Elvis with his coiffed black locks and camera-friendly profile, the big attraction is the bijoux museum in the foyer. It’s a nice touch for a couple of reasons: firstly it gives you something to look at while you wait in the queue; second, it’s fascinating checking out the famous faces who frequented the bar during its history.
What’s the damage?
£14 for all cocktails.
Ms S says:
It could just me but there’s something about The American Bar that makes me feel like I’m an extra in a James Bond movie. Maybe it’s the white jacketed bar and waiting staff; maybe it’s the ocean-liner style setting; maybe it’s the tinkling piano, whatever the reason, I suggest slipping into a dress and a pair of heels and making a date with a Daniel Craig looky-likey.
Mr G says:
This is the place to come if you want to imbibe cocktail history as well as the cocktails themselves. There’s the mini museum on the way in and there are the pictures of famous patrons on the walls. But it’s more. Sit back, sip your drink and just feel glamorous.