Tampering with a classic cocktail is a challenge most bartenders would hesitate to do. However the team at The Library Bar have delivered some spectacular and surprising results with their re-imagination of the classics.
Published on 08 November 2017
Few cities have a cocktail scene as vibrant as London’s. With new establishments opening all the time, and a discerning clientele, competition for the most inventive, brilliant new drinks is erce. Yet when The Library Bar at The Lanesborough reopened two years ago, manager Mickael Perron took on the task of giving a new spin to some of the world’s most famous classic cocktails.
“When we rst opened, our aim was simple: to please everyone,” he says. “During that rst year, we put all sorts of drinks on the menu to see what would happen. What we saw was that our guests, whether they were from Europe, Asia, Africa or America, would keep coming back to the classics. It was obvious that we needed to retain the DNA of these drinks, but we still wanted to make our mark on them – to give them a bit more expression, some of our soul.”
Partly, the bartenders noticed, it was about familiarity. Whether a drink at the end of a long day of meetings or a celebratory glass to toast a special occasion, everyone likes to be able to select a drink they know and love. After all, there’s a reason why some cocktails have stood the test of time – and that’s because they’re among the very best.
So, how exactly do you de ne a classic? “For me, it’s just a popular cocktail,” says Perron. “It includes drinks such as the martini, which is a very old-school classic, but also those like the cosmopolitan, which is a relatively modern creation – it doesn’t have to be pre-Second World War. To qualify, it needs to be something everyone will recognise, whether you’re an old hand at choosing from a drinks menu or a young person who’s sampled only a few cocktails before.”
The added challenge when it comes to making a classic drink, Perron explains, is that most people can recognise a good – and bad – one as soon as they taste it. When it comes to simple, elegant drinks like a martini or negroni, there really is nowhere to hide. But that’s part of the fun, he says: “One reason we liked the idea of doing classics with a twist is because we wanted to allow our bartenders to show what they could do. Why not push forward, we thought – let’s have some fun!”
“It takes a long time to reinvent a classic,” Perron explains. “You need people to come back, reorder it and talk about it, so it becomes well known. I want them to say, when they go back to Sydney or wherever they come from, ‘You know what? The Lanesborough makes a wicked negroni!’ I overheard someone in the bar last week ordering a Gaspari Manhattan and since then, I haven’t stopped smiling. That’s the sort of thing that makes it all worthwhile.”
The Library Bar, + 44 (0)20 7259 5599 or email@example.com