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Friday, 26 November 2010

Cocktail anyone? Savoy faire...

In the interests of high culture, we just had to revisit the HQ of the British cocktail, namely the Savoy Hotel in The Strand, London. We've been suffering over the past couple of years – a case of make do and mend, while having to put up with cocktails at such spots as the Ritz, or Claridge's even. At last then the old place has reopened – following a £220 million refurb and 18 months late (not in the same league as the Edinburgh trams fiasco and far more tasteful) – and would Harry Craddock be proud? The renowned cocktail barman who brought fame to the American Bar at the Savoy would surely have been happy with the fare on offer, with the old classics to the fore: Manhattan, Dry Martini and White Lady, which, it is said, he invented. Plus a plethora of new ideas, not least a non-alcoholic delight with a cucumber base which one of our number felt disposed to try. The American Bar showing its new face, remains of the very top order, with decor, comfort, ambience, service and choice uncompromised. Not the cheapest spot in town, of course, but you wouldn't expect it to be, and the gorgeous art deco-esque fittings, including the fish fountain (pictured) are a joy.

A couple of minus points, however: why is it that people these days have forgotten the art of getting dressed? Some of the guests on the evening we were there could have passed for tramps. Another minus was the removal of the old grand piano which Frank Sinatra used to play on his visits. It's been replaced by a white baby grand which sits in the middle of the lounge and was played by a cabaret 'artist' whose singing was as bad as I've heard outside a low dive in Govan. In his favour, he could tinkle the ivories a little. Better then, if you can get a seat nearer the bar and away from the initial lounge area. That way you can hear yourself laugh. The Savoy, while known for its art deco frontage and some of its fittings, is, of course, a Victorian edifice, having been built in 1889 by the impresario Richard d'Oyly Carte. The artist James Abbott McNeill Whistler stayed there for a while – he knew how to live – and painted some scenes of the Thames from his balcony. You can see one of these pictures at the excellent Whistler: Blue and Silver exhibition at the Hunterian Gallery in Glasgow's west end until January 8.
Back to that cucumber cocktail then ... having been allowed a sip, I felt I might invent something not unlike it of my own – but with a little kick.
I call it the Last Cucu of Spring – but please offer your own suggestions...

Peel half a cucumber and chop it into pieces
1 table spoon of coriander
2 fl oz sugar syrup
Juice of 1 lime
6 fl oz white rum
2 fl oz peach shnapps
Good dash of orange bitters
Place all in a liquidiser and churn
Sieve into a cocktail shaker containing 4 lumps of ice
Shake well and pour
Cut a big angled wedge of cucumber, slice it halfway and hang on to the rim of the glass

Serves four possibly – or one if you're any of my chums.


  1. Having just read this, and as we're now in that pre-dinner period, I feel inspired to declare Saturday evening's cocktail hour officially open . . . I may not be able to achieve captivating art deco elegance, but I will dress appropriately before sipping a margarita or two . . . Love the blog!

  2. The Last Cucu of romantic!
    I trust that now Spring will not "be a little late for me next year."
    Start saving now for birthday celebratory tea at the Savoy.
    and lets dress up!