So it’s been a bittersweet year for the London cocktail institution, which has had to close twice for pandemic reasons. “2020’s been a challenging year, but also an inspiring one,” as Agostino Peronne, the bar’s Director of Mixology, tells us via Zoom.
The bar pivoted to social media, some charity endeavors for front-line workers, and bottled cocktails. So while some of the elegance of the bar itself was lost for a time — no martini trolley cart, no welcoming amuse bouche cocktail, no food service — it’s now returned with a renewed sense of purpose.
If you go to the Connaught, you’ll probably start with their signature drink, a martini. There, you’ll get a “flavor map,” a paper with the scent of various bitters and tinctures that you can use to enrich your gin or vodka cocktail. “It’s a little bit like aromatherapy,” admits Peronne. The go-to flavor here is bergamot, but you’ll also have access to ginseng, a non-sweet lavender from Greece, the not-legal-in-the-U.S. tonka beans and black cardamom, amongst other flavors and aromas.
A simplified recipe is below, along with a new recipe for an easy and delicious hot rum drink. As for the martini: If you want to be like James Bond — well, mid-90s 007 — lean on the lavender. “When Pierce Brosnan first visited, he asked for a martini,” Peronne explains. “We panicked, because James Bond asked us for a martini! And we’re stirred, not shaken, and with gin.” But a quick walkthrough of the bar’s process left Brosnan with a drink he loved that emphasized the lavender elements. And after that experience, he also became a regular.
The Connaught Bar Martini
70 ml gin or vodka of your choice (note: the bar uses Tanqueray No. 10, but also has their own handmade gin)
15 ml dry vermouth
3 dashes of aromatic bitters*
Olives or lemon for garnish
Add the bitters to a frozen Martini glass and coat glass. Stir the vodka/gin and vermouth in a mixing tin/glass with ice chunks. Serve straight up in a martini glass. Garnish with olive or lemon.
*Connaught’s aromatic bitters include lavender, cardamom, ginger, bergamot and tonka beans. To recreate an aromatic bitter at home, infuse an amaro or high proof spirit with your preferred spice/herb and leave it infused for 48 hours.
15 ml aged rum
10 ml yuzu juice (can be found at most Asian grocery stores; substitute Meyer lemon if unable to find)
100 ml cold brewed coffee
10 ml cocoa syrup
Combine all ingredients. Heat on stovetop until warm but not hot. Serve in flute glass.
Given that “99%” of the staff at the Connaught are Italian, it’s no surprise that the bar recommends a drink that recalls a Naples espresso staple.
“Lemon Noir is a dark cocktail that you don’t expect to be fresh and lemon-y,” explains Giorgio Bargiani, the bar’s Head Mixologist. “The pairing of citrus and coffee flavors is an ancient tradition in Italy. We wanted to recreate that in an elegant style. But we suggest a cold brew [as an ingredient] over espresso because otherwise that flavor would be too intense and cover the cocoa and lemon.”
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