By Tom Wilkinson
If you follow Piccadilly west past Green Park and turn north a few streets after The Ritz, you will find Fleming’s Hotel, Mayfair. Mention that you are headed to Manetta’s Bar and you will be ushered in by an impeccably dressed doorman and led down well-lit stairs to the basement level. Once there, hang a left and you’ll end up in the sumptuous pre-war style of this iconic London bar.
In the 1930s this was the haunt of authors, artists, and other cognoscenti. While they may no longer relax on the sofas, artwork representing the more famous patrons adorns the walls. One of these was author Agatha Christie. In order to celebrate Kenneth Branagh’s adaption of her book Murder on the Orient Express, Manetta’s Bar has created a range of cocktails inspired by the carriages of this famous train.
Here are a few of my favourites to wet your (steam) whistle.
Served in a sherry glass, this cocktail is made with Calvados, Dubonnet and Lillet blanc. This is a very smooth, superbly savoury drink. Well mixed with a consistent flavour all the way through, it is a delightful start to an evening. It was paired with goat’s cheese and beetroot aperitifs, and while it pairs well with food that is equally savoury, it would likely overpower something with a weaker flavour.
A bold take on the Old Fashioned, this drink is made with Balvenie 12-year-old whisky, Averna, Applewood and orange bitters. It was served with smoked salmon. My first thought was that this smells somewhat like a church, but don’t let that put you off! This is an orangey, smoky experience that I heartily recommend. Perhaps it is best to think of it as a Christmassy smell, a mixture of spiciness and smoke reminiscent of frankincense.
Yet again, this was a wonderfully smooth cocktail. Despite the smokiness of the drink I wasn’t sure how well it would pair with the salmon, a robust flavour in its own right. I needn’t have worried as it was a delightful combination, as the lemon on the smoked salmon helped cut through some of the smoky flavour and highlights the citrus in it. (If you’re not the greatest fan of whisky I will note that my companion, herself not a fan, enjoyed this one, too.)
This aromatic cocktail is served in a crystal goblet and owes its name to its strong azure colour, inspired by the blue and gold colours and crystal originally used on the Orient Express. It was paired with a fruit medley and hibiscus coulis.
Made with Grey Goose l’Orange vodka, violet liqueur and blue almond syrup, it is reminiscent of Parma Violets in flavour. As a very floral drink, I think it benefits from being enjoyed slowly so as not to overpower the palate. The hibiscus coulis really aided the flavour of the drink, and I would recommend enjoying it alongside a helping of the fruit.
Étoile de Nord
Paired with a delightful tiramisu, this dessert cocktail is made with cognac, white chocolate liqueur, and sherry. This drink really is a sweet experience. Smelling like chocolate mousse, the foam is very sweet. While this is balanced slightly with the chocolate bitters on top, I’d recommend a good mouthful of the underlying spirits to get the complete experience. The tiramisu really brings out the taste of the cognac. A perfect end to the evening.
Click here to learn more about these delightful cocktails.
Contributor Tom Wilkinson is a programmer by day and podcaster by night. He podcasts about quality alcohol at https://drwilko.org and discusses random topics drawn from a hat with his friend Mike at http://hatofmanythings.com.