Reopened back in October 2011, the St James Bar has been transformed into a chic, elegant and inviting meeting place with its Coco Chanel ambience and rich textures and colours, where you will find an eclectic mix of locals, business people and hotel guests. The service is warm and friendly, and the jazzy background music is unobtrusive.
The bar stools are covered in salmon skin and the funky bar top is made of Amethyst from India. This is the kind of place Coco Chanel would have come to, which is the idea behind its creation and décor and is somewhat reminiscent of Paris in the 1920s and 1930s with a twist of French and British influences which can be seen in the creation of their fun cocktail menu.
It is however, their new winter cocktail collection that I am focussing on following a superb cocktail masterclass I attended where three of the cocktails were showcased and I got to try them all.
This particular ‘magical’ collection of cocktails have been inspired by fairy tales and legends and so a great deal of creativity has gone into their design and creation by the talented bar team at the St James Bar, including the fairy tale-like story book entitled “Once Upon A Time” and each page illustrating the cocktail with a cartoon, its ingredients and where the cocktail’s inspiration comes from.
The first cocktail on our list for the evening is named ‘Satine’s Dilemma’ named after the musical Moulin Rouge where Satine is faced with wealth or love. And so it is that this cocktail combines sweet and sour flavours and is topped with an edible diamond and rose petal. Its ingredients are Botanist gin, rose syrup, plum bitters, lemon juice, homemade grape shrub and topped with butter foam.
Our second cocktail is named ‘Crazy Tea Time’ and inspired from the fantasy world of Alice in Wonderland and that famous Mad Hatter’s Tea Party. The cocktail itself is made with Poire Williams eau de vie, Roots Mastiha liqueur, Maraschino liqueur, Noilly Prat dry vermouth sugar syrup, lemon juice and butterfly-pea flower tea and served in an illuminated glass tea cup and saucer – it’s colour is an unusual blue – but don’t let that deceive you, as it is delicious!
Perhaps the most fun and photogenic cocktail of the evening was the next one, which is named ‘Enchanted Rose’ and draws its inspiration from Beauty and the Beast. It is made with Belvedere vodka infused with red berries, framboise eau de vie fortified with white tea syrup, St Germain liqueur, Peychaud’s bitters and rose water. Once prepared and the glass hood lifted, the smoke clears to reveal this superb cocktail. It’s almost like sitting in the front row of a stage show in Paris!
Whilst sipping our cocktails we were treated to some delicious French cuisine from The Balcon to soak up the alcohol. The beefsteak tartar was superb and the foie gras excellent!
The four other cocktails in the winter collection, which we did not get to try on this occasion, include ‘Pear O’Clock’ which has been inspired by Peter Pan and is a mix of Mount Gay Black Barrel infused with tisane Fidji, homemade sweet vermouth, Campari and violet liqueur.
It’s Gippetto’s wooden puppet Pinocchio that is the inspiration behind ‘Pin Oak Io’, which is made with Vida Mezcal infused with peppermint, Lapsang Souchong star anise, rhubarb liqueur, rhubarb bitters, lemon juice, honey syrup and la Fée Absinthe.
Hansel & Gretel is behind ‘Who’s Nibbling At My House’ and is made with Talikser10, amaretto liqueur, chocolate bitters and double cream.
And the final new cocktail in this fairy tale collection story book is ‘Dragon’s Son’ from Vlad III Dracula and is a concoction of Metaxa 12 Stars infused with Nuit d’Eté, Sauternes infused with Bulgare tea, Taylor’s 20, syrup sugar, Campari and homemade sloe gin mouse.
The tale of sipping cocktails ended after almost two hours as I staggered to my feet, gathered myself together and ventured down the road to sit in the sauna in the hope that it may do me some good before falling asleep on the train journey home. And no, I thankfully did not miss my stop!
St James Bar, 6 Waterloo Place, London, SW1Y 4AN, UK
Tel: +44 (0) 20 7747 2238
The St James Bar is located to the right of the lobby as you walk into the Sofitel London St James, which is on the corner of Waterloo Place and Pall Mall very close to Piccadilly Circus Tube station (Piccadilly and Bakerloo Lines). The Bar is open from Monday to Saturday from 8:00am to 21:30am and on Sunday from 8:00am to 11:30pm.
Price Band: All these seven winter cocktails are priced at £16 each.
Simon Burrell is Editor-in-Chief of Our Man On The Ground, a member of The British Guild of Travel Writers and professional photographer.
Photographs by Simon Burrell