Ladies and Gentlemen, we may have found it. Having spent an enjoyable few years conducting what I like (somewhat euphemistically) to call “research” I think we have found a contender for the world’s best bar right now. And I don’t mean the world’s coolest bar – to be frank I would never find out about that, and even if I did they would never let me in. And if they did, that would be the end of their period of cool – seriously, whenever a suited type like me turns up in a bar it is a sure sign the management have decided to cash in their cool chips for high volumes of paying customers instead. (or, as Harpo Marx memorably quipped about joining members clubs – arp arp arp ARP! honk).
Anyway, I digress.
A cocktail-loving friend of mine (hi Cabe!) has a section on his and his now wife’s blog (hi Caroline!) describing (in loving fashion) Old Fashioneds he has met. Now, there are many varieties of Old Fashioneds, most of them sticking to a core of bourbon or rye whisky, orange peel, sugar and bitters, but many also playing around with dark rum, grapefruit peel, cliché cherries, tobacco infusions and the like. I have tried many of them, but I had not to date experienced the following: the waiter plonks a standard, old fashioned Old Fashioned in front of you – perfectly balanced, soft yet punchy with the required overtones of fruit and manliness – and then, with no fanfare, also plonks down a conical flask like your chemistry teacher used to drink out of, corked and full of some kind of heavy smoke. The smoke, you see, is for pouring over the cocktail. And it smells of … golly … marshmallows and fire and autumn, and rich sweetness and sweet richness. And it is heavier than air and it pours, coiling hypnotically out of the flask over your glass and infusing the whole affair with intense flavor and with magic. And it’s incredible.
And they come with more. Centrifuged Bloody Maries (clear – but of course!) and lemongrass-infused vacuum-redistilled gin and tonics, and foamy concoctions bobbing with spherulized Earl Grey tea globules. The bar is covered in chemistry equipment that you are not allowed under New York licensing laws: the partial-vacuum still is a definite invitation to the police where I come from. They are the Heston Blumenthals of cocktailry and they confect, carbonate, combust and combine with the best of them. If you are a fan of cocktails, you HAVE to go.
And I can’t remember the bloody name of the place. You see, we were in Hong Kong with our good friends Kean and Nyree. They extremely generously put us up in their rather swish apartment in Repulse Bay and had put together a cunningly planned itinerary taking in the very best of Hong Kong. We had been 104 floors up in an elegant hotel for hot chocolate, we had seen wet markets and white witches and both sides of that famous skyline from the Star Ferry. And that evening, we had started with hot damn chili crab, chicken feet and two excellent bottles of wine and finished with huge cigars in a hidden speakeasy washed down with “corpse reviver” cocktails (I have no idea). And we were hammered. We blame the months of no drinking, and the jetlag, and the amazing hospitality, and stuff. We got truly and thoroughly Keaned (or, as it is nowadays, Kean & Nyreed). And it was bloody marvellous.
No, I have no photographs of the occasion, or the cocktails. Yes, I could look the bar up in a minute on google, remind myself of the name and tell you all. But that would spoil a good story, wouldn’t it?