Sam Carter, ‘Chief Mixologist’ at the Bombay Sapphire Dusk Bar, has set himself a dangerous mission: he's trying to persuade the British public that James Bond was wrong. Not only should a martini be stirred and not shaken, but it should also be made with gin.
The good news is that the martinis at the Bombay Sapphire Dusk Bar are very persuasive. As, indeed, are all the cocktails. A promotional exercise for Bombay Sapphire's brand of gin, the bar could have very easily fallen flat into corporate overload. And the décor of the bar, though designed by Tom Dixon, does somehow come across as a little soulless and plastic. Yet what saves the day is the quality of those drinks.
This pop-up bar at Somerset House is closing in October - but there is a lot planned between now and then, including a series of live music events. Our advice is to pop along at dusk (the clue is in the bar's title), when the inky spread of sky above the Thames blends wonderfully with the walls of the bar, which glow blue after 6pm.
Having a bar in London that's dedicated to gin feels sort of right. London in the eighteenth century was home to around 7,000 gin shops, and to put that in context, there are only around 200 Starbucks in London right now. This bar is a more upmarket affair than life in the days of the gin craze, but prices are still pretty democratic (for London), with cocktails cashing in at the £6-8 mark.
So while the marketing blurb may make you cringe, with its talk of a "gintelligentsia", you may be slurring the word anyway, by the end of the night.
Words and image by Sophie Offord
The Bombay Sapphire Dusk Bar is at Somerset House, Strand, London WC2R 1LA, until 18th October. Open daily, 11.30am - midnight: Please note, from 24-27th September, the Bombay Sapphire Dusk Bar will be closed to the public due to London Fashion Weekend.