Seeing as I'm partial to a tipple when GQ Style sent me to go and sample a few of the best in town I really couldn't say no! Well it would be rude not to...
DENIS BROCI - CLARIDGES
The passion for concocting cocktails that slip down a treat is not lost on Denis Broci, cocktail creator at Claridges. He measures aromatic botanicals, Campari, Koniks Tail Vodka, Tanqueray Gin, Creme De Mar and pink grapefruit juice to create an invention of his own making... the 'GQ Style'! Flattery will get you everywhere and I'm fascinated as he 'washes' ice with Campari, stirs, fine strains and finally pours the delicate pink and translucent mixture into a signature Claridges bevelled John Jenkins glass. Denis tells me, 'The drink itself is quite masculine', and as I lift glass to lips a heady aroma takes over my senses! 'It's got a kick!' Denis exclaims knowingly.
Drinking cocktails with Denis is a flirty process and the role of bartender could be seen as part confidante, part entertainer as the pop and fizz of Champagne merges with Creme De Cassis, strawberry's and crushed ice to become Claridges classic 'The Flapper'. Delving into The Flappers past is daunting, but I think we can safely assume it's namesake must surely be attached to the roaring 1920's Flapper girl. Perhaps interior designer David Collins payed homage to this deep cerise classic when designing the Claridges bar, upholstered in The Flappers resulting vibrant shade, it's simple to make and gorgeously attractive in it's crystal champagne flute, set off jauntily with a seductive strawberry embelished flourish. Quite fitting as the juiciness, sparkle of champagne and strawberry's evoke a real sense of occasion.
ERIK LORINCZ - SAVOY
'Malecon' is the very charming Erik Lorincz's award winning elixior in the Legacy Cocktail competition. Named after the promenade in Havana, Cuba, Lorincz has somewhat of a philosphical attitude explaining the concept he has successfully endevoured to conjure up within a crystal coupette. He assembles the elements that go into his molten bowl of luxurient liquors, each ingredient appearing to symbolise and represent an attitude of celebration, the main inspiration originating from the passion of the Cuban people. Part of the fun is watching the process, Erik takes a huge chunk of clear ice and splinters a perfectly formed shard ready for the final touch. The cocktail itself consists of Oloroso Sherry, Bacardi Superior Rum, tawny port, lime juice, caster sugar and a few drops of Peychaud's Bitters. Malecon is surprisingly fruity and after some jazzy moments with a cocktail shaker I'm urged to savour the final pouring, ice seductivily glistening amid a pool of potent liquid. 'Look at it, hold it, take a little sip', Erik suggests. I do as I'm told and enjoy the sensation flooding my tastebuds as the golden nectar trickles over my tongue.
31 year old Lorincz has become a force to be reckoned within the bartending world winning DIAGEO RESERVE WORLD CLASS Bartender of the year in 2010 he regards his work with creative artistic integrity saying, 'Perfect cocktail moments are art forms for me'. And believe you me sherry and twany port never tasted so good!
ALESSANDRO PALAZZO - DUKES
As Alessandro Palazzo creates the signature Dukes 'Vesper' with an inventive twist he recalls the history of this classic vodka martini, shaken not stirred... if you get my gist. Indeed this was the favoured tipple of James Bond author Ian Flemming who used to swing by Dukes on a regular basis. Consisting of Lillet, Potocki Vodka, Gin, Angostura bitters stirred and set off with a sliver of lemon peel, 'That's what gives it a ladies appeal!' Palazzo continues to inform me as he measures each component carefully and pours into a martini glass. Over the years the Vesper has created many a heated moment of debate but Alessandro has kept as true to the original as he can be, 'I changed it because quite simply some of the ingredients don't exist any more'. This Homage to Flemming represents both the masculine and feminine slant's to the glamourous characters conjured up in Flemmings books and films but is specifically named after secret agent Vesper Lynnd in Casino Royal.
'The best things are always the simple things', 53 year old Palazzo states with the wonderfully jovial attitude of a seasoned bartender. Infact the experience of cocktail hour pivots not only on the drink itself but on the decadence, ambience and good humour involved. Simple, elegant and glamourous are the notions the Vesper evokes as she sits upon the bar, the clean, sharp tang is at once refreshing and somewhat intoxicating. No one can denny her allure, it's a sexy little drink that exudes class.
AGOSTINO PERRONE - CONNAUGHT
You know these mixologists are an inventive lot! International Bartender of the Year in 2010 Agostino Perrone or Ago as friends and regulars call him, cheekily invented his 'Marcharita' the day before the shoot. 'This one is for Tequilla lovers', he tells me, and further explains how his intention was to merge modern and classic notions into his latest creation. Born and raised in Lake Como, Ago shakes and strains a lime green concoction consisting of green tea cordial, Tequila and lime juice. Presentation is everything and Ago's fancy engraved coupette rimmed with black sea salt sets the tone with a contempoary flourish, the salt positvely dances off the glass creating a fabulous contrast of modernity. The crunch of black sea salt, kick of Tequilla and sweetness of green tea cordial is quite mouth watering, but it's the arresting hue of the vibrant green contents which is really a talking point. Sophisticated and fresh with a quirky dash of good humour, Ago seems to have hit on a most alluring combination.
BRIAN SILVA - RULES
It's quite apparent Bostonian born Brian Silva is a legend in the bartending world. With a history in the biz spanning back 30 years, with residency's at Scotts and The Connaught Silva's aura of calm and knowledge exudes with it a sense of concentration and precision... quite simply put, Brian Silva does what he loves doing best, namely make amazing cocktails! Splashes of guava lime juice, soda, rum, green chartreuse, crushed ice with parcels of shredded mint leaves sit atop of his 'Mojito', a concoction generally affiliated with Cuba but historically attributed to pirate Richard Drake in the 1500's. Suddenly an alluring tower of tantalizing refreshment materializes in a flick of an eye. Brian's focus and vision is all about balance, 'There are percific rules', Brian tells me as he lovingly measures, layers and crushes down each summery and fragrant component into a high ball glass. 'And there is some theatre to it', he adds, 'It's all about the drinks and we change the top 10 drinks list regulary at Rules'. Brian's 'Mojito' is sumptuous, elegant and rejuvenating. A joy to behold, but not for long as I quickly ask for for another one.
LAUREN SHAW - DEAN STREET TOWNHOUSE
Originally from Liverpool 22 year old Lauren Shaw is a relative newcomer to the scene, she's currently months into her residency at Soho's Dean Street Townhouse having spent 3 years honing her craft in Nottingham's 'The Livingroom'. Her choice of cocktail is a spin on the classic 'Breakfast Martini', she's renamed it the 'XX Breakfast Martini', Lemon juice, gin, ginger, marmalade and cranberry juice go into this refreshing, remarkably light but punchy classic gem of a drink, garnished with a swirl of orange peel. The ginger gives it a real kick and makes it almost detoxifying, am I kidding myself here? Lauren goes into the history of the drink as she grates the fresh ginger and spoons a tasty dollop of delicious marmalade into the bottom of a martini glass... originating as the 'Marmalade Martini' by Salvatore Calabrese at the Lainsbourugh Hotel in 2000, it's roots can be traced back to the 1920's as the 'Marmalade Cocktail' by Harry Craddock first published in The Savoy Cocktail Book. Finally as Lauren finishes the final touches to her perfect appertiff and hands over her delightful tipple, I take a mouthwatering gulg and immediately get an uplifting sense of exhilaration.
Princess Julia for GQ Style 2011