When the Bar at The Connaught opened in 2008 it was immediately recognized as one of the best in the business. Winning awards within months of welcoming their first guests, the menu focused primarily on a selection of perfected classic cocktails, rather than flashy, over-the-top creations. Now, coming up on their 10th anniversary, head mixologist Agostino Perrone, is drawing inspiration from an unlikely source.
Tucked away in the back of a storied building in London’s Mayfair neighborhood, the bar marries classic details—ornate plaster moldings, sleek marble floors, and plenty of wood accents—with polished Art Deco aspects—bronze light fixtures and tufted green leather sofas. The timeless elegance is obvious in even the most minute details, from the hand-carved cocktail glasses to the world-class ingredients. But what sets the space and menu apart is a determination to tell a story through each artfully created drink. To do so, Perrone leans on the architectural details of the space for inspiration.
When Perrone talks about the bar, he is just as passionate about the architecture and décor as he is about the drinks. “There’s romance behind classic cocktails,” Perrone said. “But it’s not about the drink alone, but how you enjoy the drink.”
He explained that the entire experience is what shapes an unforgettable experience for guests, and for him, it’s all about the presentation and execution. The focus of the menu changes annually, but classics like their Bloody Mary and gin Martini have been a staple since the bar’s opening. This year’s focus is a menu that draws influence from the architectural details of the space, with a handful of cocktails that represent different aspects of the bar. Each drink has a detailed story about its inspiration and what the ingredients mean for the drink.
The menu is broken up into four sections; the Masterpieces, Foundation, Finesse, and Flair. The Masterpieces is a collection of perfectly curated, timeless cocktails that the bar is best known for and are a staple on the menu. The other sections pull inspiration from the design of the space, the guests, and the team that creates these drinks.
The cocktails in Foundation pull their character from the structural detail of the bar. Drinks like Set in Stone, which is inspired by the marble bar, has been rested in a marble cask. Sweet & Z was personified by two regular guests “who are utterly different, yet the very best of friends.” The drink pairs the bitterness of a Negroni with the sweetness of a Golden Cadillac, to make a smooth and unique creation.
In the Finesse section, you’ll find cocktails that were created to highlight subtle complexities. The Wood cocktail is a spirited tribute to the bars original wood paneling and uses Pisco that’s been infused with wild cherry bark, giving the drink a hint of earthy sweetness. And the Flair section pays homage to the liveliness of the space with drinks like Moon Garden, inspired by the bar’s colors, and Bubble Leaf, a tribute to Mr. Perrone’s creativity, which both marry gin and wine for a unique flavor profile that’s full-bodied and complex.
Perrone takes pride in the work that’s gone into making every guest’s experience one to remember. From the introduction of a welcome drink for all guests—like a cocktail amuse bouche—to the artful displays of creating drinks tableside with their martini cart, the experience is unlike any other bar in the world.
And while it seems like The Connaught Bar, and Perrone, have perfected the ideal experience, there are more plans on the horizon. Perrone, who has worked at the bar since its inception, building the institution from the ground up, has been exceptionally busy the past few months. After landing on The World’s 50 Best Bars list—at number five—and gearing up to celebrate the 10th anniversary, Perrone has been hard at work creating a signature gin that’s specific to The Connaught. It’s the bar’s, and Perrone’s, first venture into distilling a signature gin and only 1,000 bottles of the 2018 vintage will be available come late November.
“It’s a continuation of what we offer here,” Perrone said. “It’s an extension of the romantic spirit behind what we do, and what we offer.”