Refining the “craft of drinksmanship”, the team behind the esteemed Shaker & Co bar schools has opened a New Orleans inspired cocktail saloon slinging some of the most proficiently and creatively mixed drinks in town. Known for providing training and consulting to bars, restaurants, hotels and brands round the world (London ties include Selfridges, The Nightjar and The Savoy), this new enterprise is a first foray into running their own bar.
The look and feel of Shaker & Co is classy stuff and does indeed exude a bit of sultry deep south Americana. The actual rich wood grain bar with a smartly curated assemblage of bottles backing it up is handsome and welcoming. However, the downstairs “tasting room” which is to feature a regular roster of cocktail-related entertainment and such from guest brands (it's Benedictine at the moment) and “artisan rarities” feels a bit claustrophobic and a little too much like an afterthought to warrant pulling punters down from elbow bending sessions upstairs.
And an elbow bending session here would not be a terribly bad idea by any stretch. Nicely priced between six and eight quid, the cocktails are an absolute bargain considering quality and inventiveness, with house-made liqueurs, vermouths, infusions and syrups adding originality to the mix. Londonist can vouch for the Potato Sack Sour (Benedictine, stone fruit, aperol, Pisco, lemon, egg white, Angostura and Peychaud bitter, £7.50) and the Breakfast with Obama (Jose Cuervo Tradicional Tequila, house-made ginger and grapefruit liquer, bitters, honey, lime and sea salt, $7.50). Delish!
They serve food too, a reasonably priced menu “packed with deep southern soul flavours”. It's a novel concept to be sure, but one that these booze-ologists don't quite get right. Hush puppies, crab balls with Mardi Gras salsa, Shredded pork 'n' beans, Jambalaya, gumbo – it all sounds more intriguing that it probably tastes. Stick with the cocktails and get some nibbles if you must.
Shaker & Co is located at 119 Hampstead Road, London NW1 3EE. It's a very central setting (where Positively 4th Street used to be) and an easy walk from Warren Street, Euston Square and even Mornington Crescent. Although as central as its address is, the bar is still in a bit of a no man's land receiving little footfall. Definitely a destination venue and one cocktail connoisseurs should strongly consider checking out, it will be interesting to see if an idea more suited for Shoreditch or Soho can keep filling enough stools with butts to continue creating such marvellous concoctions.