What:A chic new bar in the equally chic Corinthia London. Velvet takes the place of the Whitehall Hotel’s former Bassoon bar and serves cocktails “that balance references to a bygone era with a modern take on mixology” alongside a concise menu of bar food.
Who:Legendary bartender Salvatore Calabrese oversees the Velvet. Known simply as “The Maestro” in bar circles, Calabrese has been mixing drinks for over 40 years and is one of the hottest bartenders in the world (quite possibly the most). Originally from Italy, he arrived in London in 1980 and quickly rocked the capital’s cocktail and bar scene, creating the Ultimate Dry Martini and the ‘liquid’ story concept (aka the flamboyant serving of venerable Cognacs ) at Dukes Bar before moving on to work in other renowned establishments in the capital. Lately he has focused on his consultancy business for beverage brands and bars, but still runs the Donovan Bar at Mayfair’s Brown’s Hotel. Bar manager Christian Maspes oversees the Velvet daily, whose resume includes The Churchill in Marylebone and Quaglino’s in St James’s.
The atmosphere:Although its name might conjure up a provincial nightclub from the 80s, Velvet’s look and feel is about as far from that as one might imagine. Accurately described by Calabrese as “seductive and intimate”, the turn-of-the-century inspired space has been completely redesigned by top design agency David Collins Studio. Design details include the eponymous deep velvet curtains, upholstered furniture in shades of red and royal blue, convex mirrors, and artwork commissioned by Robson Stannard that flank a central marble fireplace.
To drink:The cocktail selection includes some of Calabrese’s best-known creations, including the Breakfast Martini and the Spicy Fifty. The first section of the cocktail menu is divided into 1920s classics and modern-era cocktails, with options from the former like the Bee’s Knees (Tanqueray #10, lemon juice and honey) and options from the latter. such as the Sazerac Truffle (Rémy Martin VSOP truffle, Bulleit Bourbon, Peychaud and Salty Orange Bitters and umami syrup). There is also a range of ‘vintage’ cocktails made from liquids distilled decades ago, including a Sidecar made from Hine cognac and Cointreau produced in the 1930s (£350).
The food:Prepared by Roux Fellow André Garrett in the kitchen that powers The Northall, the menu is light but packed with punchy flavours. Options include vegetable tempura with fennel seeds and dashi ponzu; salmon sashimi with a heart of crispy nuggets, sushi rice, nori and chipotle mayonnaise; truffled croque-monsieur with Comté aged for 24 months, roasted ham with Wiltshire honey and confit egg yolk; and buttermilk fried Norfolk chicken with sesame, gochujang pepper and pickled ginger.
And something else:Those who thought the Sidecar sounded punchy might be interested to learn that Calabrese is responsible for the world’s most expensive cocktail, mixed at the Playboy Club in Mayfair and selling for a staggering £5,500 a glass. Calabrese is also credited with creating the oldest cocktail in the world: Salvatore’s Legacy contains rare liquors with a combined age of 730 years.