Sunday, June 8, 2014

Theatrical Cocktails at Artesian Bar (London, UK)

I had limited time on my first London trip, and a lot of cocktail bars to try. Artesian Bar in The Langham London was named World's Best Cocktail Bar by Drinks International in 2013, so I knew I had to try it.

I liked the bar as soon as I entered. It's beautiful and comfortable, the menu is intriguing and the service and pacing impeccable.

I was served a glass of sparkling wine upon seating, garnished with a petal in that Langham pink color.
The menu is revamped annually. This year it is a color coded wheel. Yellow indicates rich and aromatic drinks, green is refreshing, etc. You read the menu drink by drink through the butterfly shaped opening.
Some nuts and potato chips for the table.

I started with a drink called the Super Panda, made with Botran (a Guatemalan rum), Kamm and Sons (a botanical British aperitif), mango, citrus, almond. The server brought the drink over with ... a panda shaped balloon? Turns out the panda is infused with the aromas present in the drink.
They serve the drink on top of the panda and you inhale the aromas as it is deflated by the glass.
The cocktail itself is sweet and refreshing but still well balanced and complex.

My favorite drink I tried was the Unfinished Business (Woodford Reserve, Martini Rosso, bitters, galangal - leather aged). It is topped with chorizo and capers.
The aromatic drink fans will love this. I ordered it because I was curious about the leather aging and not only was it exquisite, it worked beautifully with the salty garnish.

The cocktails at Artesian aren't cheap at £16.50, but the drinks are interactive, fun, and perfectly made. Not only that, when I was there, each table received a plate of canapes including finger sandwiches of beef carpaccio and more.

It's hard to get in to the bar, but everyone is seated comfortably with enough space between them instead of being packed like sardines in front of the bar. I had a great view of the bartenders and their tricks.

For my last drink, they recommended the Aqui Estoy (Don Julio blanco, falernum, mescal, shiso, citrus). What came was a skull wearing a sombrero.
Removing the hat reveals burning cinnamon bark atop the slice of lime. It's all about enhancing the aroma. We taste with our noses first, after all.
Inside is a wonderful tiki drink on crushed ice.

Drinking at Artesian reminded me of The Aviary, where each cocktail is an interaction and a performance. At both places, the cocktails themselves live up to the hype. I came alone to Artesian but between the fun drinks, watching the bartenders, and the friendly service, I had a wonderful time. When you're in London, Artesian is a must try!


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