phone mail2 facebook twitter play whatsapp
Self-discovery through cocktails
Image Credit: Savoy Head Barman Erik Lorincz and Bar Manager Declan McGurke

Self-discovery through cocktails

19 May 2018 Suzanne Frost

The world-renowned Savoy Hotel is the stuff of legend, and legends have adorned the walls of the American Bar ever since the late 1980s. The iconic black and white portraits by British photographer Terry O'Neill - featuring the likes of Ava Gardner, Elizabeth Taylor, David Bowie, Judy Garland and Peter Sellers - are as much a part of the American Bar as its shakers and glassware, and the dedicated team of bartenders has used the iconic images as inspiration for an innovative and ambitious new cocktail menu. Each drink in the menu named ‘Every Moment Tells A Story’ has been inspired by a particular portrait hanging on the wall of the bar, and in turn a snapshot of history revealing a hidden story.

Guests can go on a flavour journey with the help of a tasting graph, with length of drink and light vs dark as its indices. When London Calling heard about photography being turned into a flavour experience, we were intrigued and asked bar manager Declan McGurk to tell us more…
 
London Calling: Tell us a little bit about the concept behind the new menu!
Declan McGurk: For some time there has been an ambition to do some activity surrounding the Terry O'Neill photography that dominates our décor. During 2017, that long-term idea finally became a reality as we agreed on the concept and then put to work those plans ready for our recent launch. The concept is about bringing our walls to life by using the highly creative photography as the inspiration for truly engaging cocktails. Photography captures moments and so can visiting a bar, so, given this similarity, as an art form photography and cocktails can potentially evoke some great parallel feelings.

Raquel Welch posing in the art deco bedroom of her Beverly Hills home, 1976. Photography supplied by Iconic Images © Iconic Images / Terry O’Neill 2018

LC: Can you explain the process of turning a visual (photo) into a sensory (taste) experience – what are you trying to capture from the image and how do you interpret that with flavours?
DM: As a team, we looked at each photograph and deciphered what we felt was being told. There is a wonderful photograph of David Bowie and Elizabeth Taylor from their first meeting. This of course then had to be the first drink on the menu and took the title 'First Impressions'. The photo presented these stars in an almost angelic fashion so the drink was going to be a light cocktail in body, similar in style to a gimlet. It is a gin based drink, white pepper elderflower liqueur, yuzu wine and champagne cordial. Both yuzu wine and the elderflower are big personality ingredients, but through the marriage of the drink those personalities are almost tamed and harmony is formed. This represents that photo perfectly.

Behind Closed Doors: Redistilled Grey Goose vodka with El Diablo spice mix, clarified tomato water

LC: How many tries before a new drink is created? When do you know that it is ‘right’?
DM: Sometimes a recipe falls in place very quickly and with others, there is a long back and forth process. The most important thing to keep in mind is who will order and enjoy this drink as we make drinks for our guests not ourselves.

LC: Can you talk us through the tasting graph?
DM: The rough copy of this is still stuck up on our back corridor. It was originally created as a graph of drink styles we felt needed to be on the list so that all drinking experiences could be captured. For example, a position on the graph represents whisky highballs as we knew that we needed at least one on the list. On completion of the menu though it was quite apparent this discipline guide for ourselves had formed a flavour journey of the menu and we felt this would be a very useful tool to assist the guests. Our team of servers are employed to talk guests through the menu but with cocktails we noticed that often a guest also enjoys a bit of self-discovery too, so this guide I hope will point them in the right direction.



LC: Are there any trends or new innovations in mixology that we should know about?
DM: We have for a few years been developing our highball offering and it appears to be an industry wide trend.

LC: Do you have a personal favourite?
DM: That changes almost daily but right now probably 'Return of the Polka Panther'. It takes inspiration from an amazing photo of Peter Sellers in his own bathrobe wearing a polka dot bathrobe. The drink itself is a scotch malt stinger with eucaplytus and Italicus.


Actor Peter Sellers wearing a short polka dot bathrobe in the bathroom in his flat in Victoria, London, 1975. Photography supplied by Iconic Images © Iconic Images / Terry O’Neill 2018

LC: What does working at the Savoy mean to you?
DM: Working at the Savoy has a romantic feeling attached to it. This building has the ability to really get under your skin. In my role, I feel there is great responsibility to ensure the American Bar is continually operating at a standard that matches the great history and reputation of this iconic place.
 
The American Bar is at The Savoy Hotel, 100 Strand, London WC2R 0EZ
 

 

 


 

Tell us what you think

You may also like

September Food Round-Up!

September Food Round-Up!

Prepare your taste buds; September is cooking up to be a corker of a month for the London restaurant scene. From Japanese to Spanish to…

This week: 10 – 16 September

This week: 10 – 16 September

Artificially intelligent lions, magic pink waterfalls and a Grand Hall rising from the ashes! There is a lot to get excited about this week in London.

This week: 3 – 9 September

This week: 3 – 9 September

September always marks a new beginning – a new school year, a new season, a time for new ideas, learning new skills and trying new things.…

Get 20% off London’s Leading pan-Asian Literature Festival!

Asia House Bagri Foundation Literature Festival - Get 20% off London’s Leading pan-Asian Literature Festival!

Be inspired and entertained by bestselling authors, comedians and an InstaPoet...

Win two tickets to the 1940s cocktail bar for some cocktails, cakes and cuppas!

Cahoots - Win two tickets to the 1940s cocktail bar for some cocktails, cakes and cuppas!

Beneath the bustling streets of Soho, discover Cahoots, the bar where the spirit of the Blitz is still alive and kicking, and celebrate 1940s London...

Magic Realism – a new free display at Tate Modern

Magic Realism – a new free display at Tate Modern

Was there ever a more interesting time for art than the interwar years? Weimar Germany is having a bit of a moment right now, partly…

Photography in London this Autumn

Photography in London this Autumn

London always has a great array of exhibitions on - sometimes a few too many to choose from! If you are looking for something a…

Top 5: Vegan Desserts in London

Top 5: Vegan Desserts in London

The Great British Bake off is back on our screens this week, easing the transition from melting hot summer into more cosy, rich autumn with…

Last chance: Sublime Symmetry at Guildhall Art Gallery

Last chance: Sublime Symmetry at Guildhall Art Gallery

Join Guildhall Art Gallery as they uncover the captivating mathematics behind William De Morgan's exquisite ceramics.

This week: 27 August – 2 September

This week: 27 August – 2 September

It feels like the end of summer is here. But fear not, September in London means only one thing: a new season is starting with…

Most popular

Win two tickets to the 1940s cocktail bar for some cocktails, cakes and cuppas!

Cahoots - Win two tickets to the 1940s cocktail bar for some cocktails, cakes and cuppas!

Beneath the bustling streets of Soho, discover Cahoots, the bar where the spirit of the Blitz is still alive and kicking...
Win the Complete BBC Collection of The Goodies!

The Goodies - Win the Complete BBC Collection of The Goodies!

Television comedy at its undeniable best will be released on 24 September.
Win a pair of tickets!

The Play That Goes Wrong - Win a pair of tickets!

The Play That Goes Wrong is 4 years old... Extended, not mended!
Win a family ticket to see Three Sat Under the Banyan Tree!

Polka Theatre - Win a family ticket to see Three Sat Under the Banyan Tree!

Wow the kids with this vibrant new rendition of an ancient tale.
This week: 27 August – 2 September

This week: 27 August – 2 September

It feels like the end of summer is here. But fear not, September in London means only one thing: a new season is starting with even more theatre, music and culture for you to discover!
The Best Theatre in September

The Best Theatre in September

The autumn season kicks off in London.
Film review – King of Thieves

Film review – King of Thieves

The famous Hatton Garden robbery that made headlines in 2015 is turned into a feature film staring Michael Cain.
Magic Realism – a new free display at Tate Modern

Magic Realism – a new free display at Tate Modern

A new free display at Tate Modern uncovers unsettling paralleles between the art of Weimar Germany and our current times.
The Best Family Entertainment in September

The Best Family Entertainment in September

A new school year is almost upon us, but this September, there are still plenty of fun activities on offer that will soften the blow for kids who are less than keen to return to their books.
Photography in London this Autumn

Photography in London this Autumn

Check out some amazing documentary and experimental photography to inspire you.

Your inbox deserves a little culture!!