In this new 21st century cocktail movement a classic bar can seem complacent or even boring. But bar manager Declan McGurk and head bartender Erik Lorincz, turned the American Bar around without tossing it’s history aside. McGurk says
“Four years ago when we came 20th in the World’s 50 Best Bars, we took it as feedback –it suggested to us that our bar wasn’t as engaging as it could be, particularly when you have a big head start with the name Savoy.
The next day we had a meeting and we decided quite quickly that the history of the American Bar is important but we’re talking about it too much.
We needed to start innovating and thinking beyond the story of the famous former head bartenders. Our history is like no other but the key to honoring this is to not just recycle stories, but write some ourselves.”
The Savoy Cocktail Book, was published in 1930, is practically the bartender’s bible. It’s a compendium of classics from both side of the Atlantic. Ada Coleman, joined the bar in 1903, and was an icon of her time, famously creating classic gin cocktail the Hanky Panky.Then barman Harry Craddock came along and created his signature White Lady. Craddock created more than 250 drinks in his time, and more importantly, he wrote them all down.
Lorincz arrived in late 2010, ushering in a new era. He came straight from the relaunch of The Connaught Bar– another top-rated London venue– and brought with him the knowledge of how modern hotel bars can work. A world-class bar isn’t just about drinks –it’s about finely tuned hospitality. Enter host-extraordinaire Declan McGurk who says.
“The menu launch of 2014 marked the 125th anniversary of the hotel. It also marked the move away from the listing of American Bar classic cocktails in the menu.
The Savoy Cocktail Book is still very much alive and we love to make these drinks, but from a menu point of view we had to write something truly appealing and engaging to the guests.”
The new drinks call on unusual ingredients, modern techniques and tell the stories of the hotel through its 125 years.
“In 2016 we launched the London menu, which took the weird and wonderful of London and brought those stories to life by cocktails.
The highlight of this was the making of our silent movie, Pickering Place, which is a short film creatively telling the story of the cocktail.”
The London menu was followed up by Coast to Coast this year –an exploration of England through drinks. The pair traveled the UK, finding inspiration from locations that would form chapters in the menu –the Garden of England (Kent), Art Deco London, Sherwood Forest, and Edinburgh.
Mezcal, birch liqueur pink peppercorn honey, egg white, fresh lime, eucalyptus, acorn — this is not the kind of description you expect to see in the menu of a classic hotel bar, but things have changed. Says Lorincz,
“We’re writing the next chapter of the American Bar’s history.”
Sounds like a must-visit. I’m waiting for my invitation, Prince.
(Photos, The Savoy; via CNN)