The French, inspired by fashion, invented the concept of haute-pâtisserie: cakes should be ephemeral edible art, as inspiring as they are delicious. There should be seasonal collections, the sweets wrapping themselves in decadent ganaches in winter, topped with enchanting blooms in summer, a gentle touch of fruit coulis will be accepted in guise of gloss. They should be tastebud and catwalk worthy. But in London – we have haute-mixologie, the art of blending to its very best. It is, perhaps, even more complex: the perfect cake must stop all conversation, the perfect cocktail open it. The glass must be chosen with care – not only to reveal the full colour of its robe, but for the gesture. There is an elegance in holding a glass of martini or a coupe of champagne, a sense of power in feeling a dram of whisky in your hand. One Aldwych, a stunning 5-star hotel in Covent Garden, has summed this up to perfection with their latest drinks menu: Showtime Cocktails are on! Even more symbolic as they are at the edge of Theatreland… The booklet, featuring no less than 20 creations (including an Old Fashioned trolley) is divided in themes, or shall I say genres – Christmas, Comedies, Satires, Dramas, Backstage. Once more, Pedro Paulo, bar manager of One Aldwych, and his team surpassed themselves.
#1 The Origin
A cocktail should always tell you a story, take you on a journey even: The Origin definitely does. See the headset above? Put in on and you will be transported to the Highlands, flying over fields and hills as if you were a bird, their beauty taking your breath away. Soon the pictures take you back to the cobbled streets of Covent Garden. You recognise the doors of One Aldwych opening, the Lobby Bar where a cocktail is being made and infused with cherry wood smoke. It feels so real you’re convinced you can even smell it. The movie stops, you take the headset off… to find your cocktail place right in front of you, curls of mist escaping from the glass. Impeccable timing play on all your senses.
The first sip takes is exquisite. You get the cherry liqueur first, with just a hint of dark chocolate, as if suddenly melting into it. This leads to the whisky – a Dalmore 12 y.o – and the wonderful smokiness of a chimney fire. A very light bubbliness from champagne at the tip of your tongue.
Sigh in RH.
Real Happiness, that is.
The cocktail menu recommends savoury or sweet treats to pair with your drink. The Origin was matched to goat’s cheese croquettes, wrapped in toasted almonds, the creaminess infused with truffle. Out of this world.
#2 The Circle of Life
A tribute to The Lion King musical, One Aldwych’s direct neighbour: a colourful explosion of tropical fruit… The Flor de Cana, a 7 year old rum, was first infused 72 hours with fresh mint, then mixed with Koko Kanu (a coconut rum) and crème de banane. Think of it as the rum version of a gin and tonic. As light and refreshing as coconut water, bringing together liquid sunshine, ginger ale, lime juice and cardamon bitters.
One Aldwych features quite a few bespoke glasses in this season’s collection but this one is as much a contenant than it is a masterpiece. It’s a very playful one too, allowing for any combination of fruit, herbs and spices. The menu offers another variation, The Fairy Garden Infusion bringing together Hendrick’s, white port, coriander bitters and rose lemonade. How could you resist?
The Circle of Life can be matched with mini caramelised onion and samphire quiches. Do not leave these unattended. They are THAT good.
#3 The Christmas Club
We couldn’t leave without trying a Christmas special. This one found inspiration in Home Alone – a simple recipe but full of character. Homemade orange liqueur, fresh lemon juice, raspberry syrup and Perrier-Jouët Grand Brut, the champagne playing beautifully with the citrus: it has a comforting 80s touch to it, the raspberry giving it a last minute contemporary touch that makes you want to take another sip. It is, of course paired to a mini mince pie – nothing else would have done!
And look at the glass, decorated with a curve of dried freeze raspberries. Could that be a new trend? Cocktails have come a long way (remember the curacao or sunset coloured ones, complete with sugar rim?): quality of the ingredients, garnish to infuse the drink with the zest or herb’s natural oil, sophisticated presentation. Time to go the extra mile…
One Aldwych, I applaud you. Bravo.
One Aldwych | 1 Aldwych, London WC2B 4BZ