A Toast

The Duotone

A drink from London’s 🔶⬜️🔵, a bar with shapes for a name.

MANY BARS ARE BUILT on a theme — speakeasy, tropical, mid-century modern — but London’s 🔶⬜️🔵 (also known as "A Bar with Shapes for a Name" or “Bauhaus Bar”) is built on a whole school of thought. Bauhaus principles guide the bar’s owners, Remy Savage and Paul Lougrat, and it’s evident from the moment you search for directions (🔶⬜️🔵 works just fine on both Google Maps and Uber) and in the preparation and presentation of your cocktail. Take, for instance, bar manager Maria Kontorravdis’ Duotone. The highball is a study in contrasts: flowers and smoke, ice and fire. The Duotone has no garnish, reflecting the Bauhaus school’s rejection of ornamentation. “You don't need the garnish to be there unless the garnish has some kind of function,” Kontorravdis explains. “In all of our drinks, the drink is already complete; it doesn't need any more visual aid than the glass it’s in and the ice that’s used.” But don’t mistake no-frills for arbitrary. Both the ice and glass were meticulously researched and developed.

The highball is a study in contrasts: flowers and smoke, ice and fire.

Savage and Lougrat moved into their space in Haggerston just as bars were forced to close. Kontorravdis, who joined the team shortly after, says it was a hidden blessing. Savage and Lougrat used the time to work with an architect to perfect the bar’s interior, while she took on other details. “I remember spending an entire month trying to pick a red spoon for one of our foods. And it felt like the longest project in the world,” she says. “And we don't even use that red spoon.”

The team also used that time to implement Bauhaus principles in other ways. For instance, the main space has a minimal back bar to complement their cocktails, which are put together with a palette of single distilled flavors like mint or recomposed lime. Much like a painter can re-create any hue from a palette of primary colors, they can select not only the flavor of the cocktail, but the flavor profiles of their spirits. The back area also includes 🔶⬜️🔵’s laboratory classroom, where the team conducts their research and training. The austere ethos may sound severe, but it was designed for maximum fun. Cocktails come out to guests in about 60 seconds, which means the bartenders can spend more time with their visitors. And less prep space means a bigger dance floor. “You learn, you make, you enjoy,” Kontorravdis says.

The Duotone went through many iterations before Kontorravdis found the right combination of flavors, ice, and carbonation. The extensive R&D behind the Duotone was born out of her particular love of all things highball-related and her singular focus on perfecting every element of her cocktails, down to the required PSI of the soda water. But that doesn’t mean you can’t create your own Duotone at home. “All you need to do is capture smoke, flowers, spice,” Kontorravdis says. “I think the hardest part is designing it. And then after that, it's usually quite easy to assemble.” You only need to pre-prep the ice. She recommends freezing water in a large Tupperware container without its lid, then carving off the cloudy top and shaving the clear ice to the right height and diameter. She also suggests something even faster: “Go to a nearby bar and ask them nicely if you can take some of that clear ice,” she says. And if that bar is 🔶⬜️🔵, then you may get a lesson as well.


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The Duotone

Ingredients

  • 200g of fresh galangal
  • 15g (½ oz) of mezcal verde
  • 15g (½ oz) of Haku vodka
  • 1 bunch of mint
  • 1 drop of geranium oil
  • Zest of half a lemon
  • 50g (4 tbsp) of sugar
  • 50g (1 ¾ oz) of water
  • 10g (⅓ oz) of citric acid
  • 60g (2 oz) of soda water

Directions

  1. Infuse vodka with mint for four hours.
  2. To make flower cordial, combine sugar, water, geranium oil, lemon zest in a saucepan and cook under medium heat until the sugar dissolves. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Add citric acid, strain and refrigerate.
  3. Juice fresh galangal with your juicer or Nutribullet. Set aside ¼ oz of galangal juice.
  4. Add a column of clear ice to a highball glass.
  5. Combine flower cordial, vodka, mezcal, fresh galangal juice, and soda water, and pour.

Tips

Kontorravdis notes that in order to replicate the recipe exactly, her measurement method is preferred. “It's important to highlight that my recipe is done by weight,” she says. “As a European bartender, making drinks by weight has revolutionized how we share recipes and how we batch cocktails. Weight tends to be easier and more accurate.”

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Our Contributors

Jessica Suarez Writer

Jessica Suarez is a writer living in Brooklyn, New York.

Grant Cornett Photographer

Grant Cornett is a photographer and director based in Upstate New York. He likes to take pictures of pristine detritus and austere moments.

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