London is set to go cocktail crazy for the next seven days as London Cocktail Week shuns beers, turns its nose up at wines, and focuses on the glitz and glamour of the world of mixology. The annual event aims to inspire, educate and unite London’s cocktail lovers and will be loaded full of pop-up bars, tours, tastings, parties, masterclasses and seminars, so you’ll get to learn how to make the perfect cocktail and, of course, sample one or two eye-catching, tastebud-delighting new drinks along the way.
The cocktail tours will take in more than 100 bars around town. To help you get to all of them – well, maybe not all of them – there will be special vintage London Cocktail Week Routemaster buses to hop on for free. Grab a £10 wristband, and you’ll get discounted drinks at all of them, too. Iconic Seven Dials in Covent Garden will be the focus for the event, with the famous streets taking on a party atmosphere all week long. There will even be a cocktail shop, where visitors can get the lowdown on where to go for the best drinks, and also pick up some ingredients to help you put your skills to the test at home. And with that in mind, TNT caught up with the head barman, Alessandro Palazzi, at the famous Dukes Bar at the legendary boutique Dukes Hotel in Mayfair, to quiz him on all-things cocktail.
Frequented by James Bond author, Ian Fleming, the bar is said to have provided the inspiration for the famous 007 line, “shaken, not stirred”. Being the head barman at an establishment that has been praised for making one of the world’s top martinis, Palazzi knows his stuff. So what is the secret to making the perfect cocktail? “Using good quality ingredients,” Palazzi tells us. “Never use an artificial ingredient. Always serve a cocktail that is very, very cold – keep your glasses in the fridge or the freezer before serving.” Palazzi has been making the finest cocktails for 40 years now, but it’s not all about making the best martini or cosmopolitan, it’s just as much about confounding expectations and concocting something new that will surprise people. “I look to add one or two unusual ingredients that people [sometimes] forget about,” Palazzi says of some of the tricks he employs.
“For example, Strega, a once very popular Italian liquor. I also look for products from small distilleries that aren’t well-known rather than the big suppliers. I always use fresh fruits or herbs that are in season, too.” There’s more though to being a cocktail master than just knowing what to put in the glass. “I’m a bartender and always will be a bartender,” Palazzi enthuses. “In order to become a bartender you have to be diplomatic, acrobatic, charismatic and fully knowledgeable.” All characteristics that Palazzi has in spades, we can attest. So embrace the cocktails during this week-long booze fest, and leave the beers to one side.
£10+, October 7-13