A gentleman, as we know, never name drops. It’s boastful, boorish — and uncultured in the extreme. But what about a bar? Is a haunt or hideaway, brimming with spirited stories of customers past, allowed to allude to a famous name or two? In the case of The Donovan Bar, and the hallowed hotel in which it stands, Brown’s, the answer is a resounding and riveting ‘yes’.
Because who hasn’t walked through these doors? This year marks 185 long, louche years since London’s first hotel first welcomed guests into its iconic hallways — with legends including Laurence Olivier, Winston Churchill, Arthur Conan Doyle and Orson Welles all checking in and sinking drinks. The first BAFTAs were held here — and the first phone call ever made in the British capital was dialled in Brown’s by Alexander Graham Bell himself.
And almost every one of these acclaimed moments and esteemed happenings has been distilled, to celebrate the hotel’s history, into the latest cocktail menu from the “Maestro”, Salvatore Calabrese. An inspiration to bartenders across the world (not to mention London’s other luxury hotels), Calabrese’s latest list of 37 cocktails conjures up and captures in a glass the magnetic aura of Brown’s.
There’s a tropical-tinged drink in honour of Rudyard Kipling, a whisky-soaked cocktail for Oliver Reed and even a beguiling fig-based serve for Agatha Christie. But our favourite serve is surely the ‘Wilde Nights’; a bright green concoction inspired by the ultimate bon vivant, Oscar Wilde. Served in an Art Deco glass, it’s laced with Irish whiskey, benefits from a burst of Ruinart champagne and is finished with a spitz of absinthe.
And, if you’re worried about getting your hands on that last decadent ingredient, live a little! Take a leaf out of Wilde’s book — who, whilst sipping champagne on his deathbed, whispered; “Alas, I am dying beyond my means”.
How to make the ‘Wilde Nights’
- 35 ml Black Bush Irish Whiskey
- 15 ml Green Chartreuse
- 30 ml Apple Vermouth
- 10 ml Acqua Bianca
- Splash of Champagne
- Spray of Absinthe
- Green Apple Dust, to garnish
- In a mixing glass, combine the ingredients over ice
- Stir gently to your preference of dilution
- Strain into a square coupette glass
- Spritz with a quick spray of Absinthe
- Garnish with Green Apple Dust