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squaremeal.co.uk � 83

BARS + DRI NK

place you're likely to find any Tom Cruise-types

pretending they're in Cocktail is actually behind

a bar. So is it perhaps time for a renaissance of

more skillful, less precarious flairing theatrics?

"In the right bars, flairing is fun to watch,"

says Silva. "�e problem arises when the

flairing isn't well executed - then it just looks

silly. I also don't see why we shouldn't resurrect

and update the cocktails from that time. �ey

were fun to make and it would be interesting to

see what a modern take on a Rum Runner or a

Banana Banshee might be."

Fast forward from the era of flair to 2010

and a few innovative bars, led by 69 Colebrooke

Row in Angel, developed a new multi-sensory

theatrical cocktail element, which captivated

customers with science and a sprinkling of

magic dust. �e trend towards the molecular

deconstruction of drinks - effectively the

cocktail equivalent of Heston Blumenthal's

cuisine, with dry ice, chemical reactions and

occasional minor explosions - created genuinely

exciting drink serves that were difficult to beat.

One of the bars leading the pack at this

time was Purl in Marylebone, which offers a

masterclass in molecular theatre: a visit here is

likely to be met by intense aromas, fogs, foams

and out-of-this-world serves - including the

Cerez Joker, complete with exploding balloon

(to aromatise the drink) - that still perfectly

capture what bar theatre is all about.

ON WITH THE SHOW

Half a decade down the line however, and

things are moving on from this scientific

sorcery. �omas Aske, co-founder of Purl

(which he is no longer involved with), �e

Worship St Whistling Shop (part science lab,

part Dickensian gin palace) and the newly

opened Black Rock whisky bar, thinks the

cocktail tide is definitely turning of late.

"Molecular mixology changed the face of

drinking culture but I also believe it has lost

its way a little," he explains. "�e emphasis

became too heavy on the theatrical delivery

to the detriment of the liquid in the glass. I

believe the next trend is simplification: complex

flavours, simple delivery."

So where next for the theatre behind the bar

and how do our bartenders bring the house

down, Stanislavski-style?

"I think more and more, we are moving

towards a very personal experience for

the guest, where you create an emotional

connection," reckons Agostino Perrone,

director of mixology at the Connaught Bar.

"Guests are increasingly sophisticated. �ey

don't want gimmicks; they know what they

want, whether that's a taste of adventure -

where flavours can tell the story of another

time or place - or whether it's their favourite

drink, made precisely as they like it. It's all

about creating something bespoke."

Tregenza agrees: "I think theatre needs to

go to the table, especially at table-service

venues. If you can't see it, then the customer

feels cheated. Having something done at your

table gives a personal touch."

So, bartenders, take note: it's time to start

thinking about that last act showstopper…

THEATRE OF DRAMS

Where to �nd London's most

entertaining drinks

THE SHRUB & SHUTTER

This Brixton bar/restaurant is

the latest to embrace the trend

of smart, simple and beautifully

made drinks that have a distinct

culinary feel. Co-founded

by drinks impresarios Chris

Edwards and Dave Tregenza, the

ever-changing cocktail menu

shares a close relationship with

the kitchen and a fondness for

seasonal ingredients, often

served with a surprising twist.

336 Coldharbour Lane, SW9 8QH;

theshrubandshutter.com

THE CONNAUGHT BAR

Under the tenure of Ago

Perrone, this renowned hotel

bar oozes elegance from the

glorious 1930s, but still brings

a distinct element of modern

theatrical experience to the

table. Martinis - made bespoke,

from behind Peronne's cocktail

trolley - have a mastery of

suspense about them. Watching

him elegantly �ex a lemon peel

down the arc of the cocktail as

he pours it from a great height is

a magical experience.

Carlos Place, W1K 2AL;

the-connaught.co.uk

THE GIBSON

Launched late last year by exNightjar

head bartender Marian

Beke and Rusty Červen, formerly

of The Connaught, The Gibson

o�ers a contemporary approach

to the golden era of the mixed

drink. Expect authenticity in the

ingredients including vinegars,

pickles and other savoury

delights, alongside totally

bonkers serves and garnishes,

plus Beke's undeniable artistry

with the shaker… just don't

call it �airing, whatever you do.

44 Old St, EC1V 9AQ;

thegibsonbar.london

CLOCKWISE, FROM

TOP LEFT: WORSHIP ST

WHISTLING SHOP;

COCKTAIL TRADING

CO'S APAIROTEEF; A

CANNY CREATION

FROM PURL; THE

SHRUB & SHUTTER'S

WONKA BAR

SHRUB AND SHUTTER PHOTOS: GILES CHRISTOPHER

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