Let’s start with a confession: I’m a fan of the cocktail. A big fan.
Because there’s something a bit special about a drink that has been perfected after months – or sometimes even decades – of experimentation. It’s the intrigue of trying something you’ve never tasted before. The combining of flavours you’d never dreamt of putting together. And of course, that unhurried, relaxed atmosphere, where you can sit back and savour every mouthful.
Oh no, wait. That last bit about relaxation? I don’t think I’ve ever had that particular pleasure.
Invite me to an evening of cocktails, and I’ll expect to stand in a queue six-deep, in a bar the size of a cupboard. Then when I eventually get served, nine times out of 10 I’ll end up drinking my Old Fashioned in the corridor outside the toilets, because the place is so overcrowded it must be violating fire laws.
It’s almost as if there’s an agreed trade-off in the industry: the more innovative the mixology, the more uncomfortable the venue. Yes, you can get exceptional cocktail service in high-class hotels, but don’t expect anything more daring that a bit of dirt in your martini.
But now there’s The Chesterfield Mayfair. Admittedly not somewhere that immediately springs to mind when you think about experimental drinks. After all, this is one of London’s top heritage hotels famed for afternoon teas, has a pianist in the lounge and offers traditional five-star service that leaves you feeling like minor royalty.
However, just like the very best cocktails, the Chesterfield is all about surprise. Take a seat at the sumptuous bar and you’re in the capable hands of head barman Edgar, who can conjure up a collection of show-stopping drinks he calls the Molecular Cocktail Experience.
The Eton Mess comes with a hammer to crack open vodka encased in ice, while the Old and New Era Mojito arrives on a spoon. And it not just the tastes that impressed: at one point the top of the bar was cloaked in dry ice, attracting a nearby couple ready to Instagram the occasion for posterity.
These are the kinds of inventive drinks that normally come from a stoney-faced mixologist who doesn’t do conversation.
But at The Chesterfield, it’s all about the full experience, where you can enjoy top class service, beautiful decor, and literally drink it all in.
Written by Jessica O’Donovan. All images © Red Carnation Hotels.