Nightjar has a new cocktail menu. For anyone who likes mixed drinks this is kind of a big deal. Nightjar is one of London’s – nay, the world’s – best bars. It’s a true destination venue and the only place in the country that successfully nails the speakeasy theme (not least because it whisks you away from the monstrous, cyclist deathtrap that is Old Street Roundabout).
Like all hidden gems, Nightjar was swiftly uncovered. Finishing in the top three of the World’s Best Bar awards year-on-year does that to you. But unlike many newly exposed hits, it’s kept its class. This is probably due to the no-standing policy. Although this makes it tricky to walk in off the street, it means it’s never crammed and you get the service the price deserves.
Nightjar is a homage to a time and place that didn’t really exist (except in Fitzgerald novels), but one familiar to us all. It transports you to a past age with a soundtrack of jazz and swing. It’s more sumptuous than the Jazz Age ever was, and its drinks put to shame the real US Prohibition cocktails, which were mixed to disguise the blindingly bad bathtub liqueur.
Bartender Marian Beke’s new menu is split between Pre-Prohibition, Prohibition, Postwar and Signature cocktails. Here are two of the best.
The Ward 8 is my favourite. It’s like a whisky sour with a healthy dollop of complexity. This is achieved through the Bulleit Rye, which is infused with the pickling spices of mustard seeds, peppercorns, dill, coriander and ginger. But the best thing about the drink is its rim of tangy Korean BBQ spices. My drinking partner surreptitiously licked his glass clean. I’m still kicking myself for not doing the same.
Nightjar replaces the usual gin with Jose Cuervo 1800 Silver tequila. It’s a dry, savoury balance of flavours, with agave & hazelnut orgeat nicely complementing the tomatillo and tonka puree. But, let's face it, the main reason for ordering this is simple: the funky cup.
Its also worth trying the Happy Buddha for a charming twist on a Tiki Classic, and the Carambolera, which makes use of the tricky star fruit.
If you’ve not been to Nightjar I recommend you search it out. Dress smart, but don’t be too proud to lick the place dry.