The American Bar has been serving drinks for over 130 years and cocktails since 1930, when then head barman Harry Craddock first penned The Savoy Cocktail Book. But who says an old dog can’t learn new tricks? In April 2019, the piano-shaped American Bar – which is almost as famous for its resident piano players and celebrity guests as it is its drinks – launched a new cocktail menu: The Savoy Songbook. The menu features 20 cocktails inspired by 20 classic songs, and aims to pay homage to the ‘legendary musicians and songwriters that have entertained guests in the bar for decades’.
The new menu has been devised by the bar’s current head bartender Maxim Schulte and director of bars Declan McGurk. And, in what is an industry first, has been launched with an accompanying live album, recorded by the bar’s resident piano player, Jon Nickol. While we wouldn’t advise attempting to make your way through the cocktail menu in a single sitting (or several), you can stream the live album in one go on Spotify, if you wish.
The Sun Sun Sun cocktail, inspired by The Beatles' 'Here Comes the sun'
So, what’s actually on the menu? The Savoy Songbook is split into two distinct sections, giving you a heads up before ordering whether your tipple will be light and delicate or dark and intense. We sampled one from each end of the scale, and found both unusual, refined and impeccably blended. In fact, despite the unconventional-for-2019 mix of flavours, the drinks tasted so classic, we could have been fooled into believing they had featured on the menu for as long as the bar has been around.
The ‘Go Go Go’, inspired by Amy Winehouse’s ‘Rehab’, brags a few too many forced connections to the late singer (the waiter spun a story for each of the ingredients, relating these back to Amy and her Camden life). That said, its blend of tequila, avocado, kumquat, lime, mango & passionfruit cordial and IPA beer was exotic, sumptuous and flawless in taste.
Resisting the temptation to order a second ‘Go Go Go’, we weaned ourselves off it by trying the ‘Burning Bright’, a cocktail inspired by Foo Fighters’ ‘Learn to Fly’. It appeared more pale and interesting than bright and fiery, as expected, but its exquisite blend of rum, amaro, vermouth, lime and grapefruit proved an undeniable palate pleaser.
Elsewhere on the menu, a rye whiskey-based ‘Concrete Jungle’ is inspired by Alicia Keys’ ‘Empire State of Mind’, while a gin-based ‘Sun Sun Sun’ takes influence from The Beatles’ ‘Here Comes the Sun’.
The only thing that could have elevated the experience further, perhaps, is if the songs our cocktails were based had played while we sipped them. And, with a consistently packed bar to entertain, it’s unlikely Jon Nickol will be playing the soundtrack to your order when it arrives, either. All the better, then, that the soundtrack is on Spotify for you to listen to at your leisure.
|What||The American Bar at The Savoy, Covent Garden|
|Where||The Savoy, The Strand, London, WC2R 0EU | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Charing Cross (underground)|
|Website||Click here for more information and to book|