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St James Bar in London launched their latest cocktail menu, A Taste of the World, in April, where cocktails are inspired by traditional food, flavours, and ingredients from around the world. We at Vada checked in to see how they taste compared to their associated destination.
St James Bar
At 5 minutes walk, inside the Sofitel St James hotel, St James Bar, seems fully restored compared with our last visit, still led by our favourite bar manager, Kostas Bardas. Kostas has overseen St James Bar since 2019, and ensured a friendly, attentive service has been maintained under his leadership. This visit follows last year’s Once In A Lifetime cocktail menu, which we reviewed.
For readers who have not yet visited, the St James bar interior exudes luxury through curved plush velvet seating in samphire shades, brass accents and colourful rows of bottled handmade tinctures, bitters and liqueurs behind the centrepiece bar. The painting of the huge cock (a French cockerel wearing an English military uniform) on the ceiling is a nod to the hotel brand’s blend of French history and local culture.
A Taste of the World cocktail menu
Eighteen new cocktails have been created under this new menu, which launched in April. The menu itself is much more paired back, being presented as a simple paper menu compared with some of the more extravagant menu designs St James Bar previously embraced. However, as we drank on, we noted this pairing back of the physical menu does not represent a pairing back of the quality of the drinks. We sampled eight of these, and our highlights and recommendations are below, though we acknowledge we need another visit or two to ensure we haven’t missed any worldly treasures.
A Taste of the World, in fact, demonstrates how the bar team are continually embracing new techniques and pushing flavour boundaries. The Roquefort, a take on a dirty Martini with Elit Vodka as a base, representing a taste of France, contains an olive that has been infused with a blue cheese flavour. As you sip more of the Martini and get closer to the olive at the bottom of your glass, the more the blue cheese flavour intensifies. Similarly, the Hops & Barley resembles (in looks) a lager with plenty of head, rather than a cocktail. The ingredients however consist of a 15 year old Glenfiddich Whisky, Old Duff Genever, Muyu Chinotto Nero, hopped grapefruit bitters, rye kivas and barley.
Other cocktails of note, from our sample, include:
- Suzette – a Whiskey sour style cocktail, which is both citrusy and sweet & sour all at once, evoking the flavours of the french dessert it is named after. Made from Singleton Dufftown 12 year old Whiskey, Grand Marnier, Aperol, vermouth, citrus, and orange husk, the amber hues and thick foam make for a sweet choice to round off the evening.
- Kiwi & Oyster – an example of St James continually pushing the envelope of cocktail flavours. This Martini-style drink has a base of Roku gin, mixed with sherry, Green Chartreuse, kiwi, and topped with oyster leaf. A cocktail choice for Martini lovers.
- Gianduja – this writer loves both Negronis and chocolate. So what the St James Bar team have done is combine both into an incredible moreish cocktail. This Negroni is made with Tanqueray N.10 gin, hazelnut & chocolate, Campari, Vermouth, and sherry cream. This is one we’ll be ordering first on our next visit.
Are there any cocktails we didn’t like? Ultimately taste is a subjective topic, so whilst we do have our recommendations, we know these will appeal to some readers but not others. We would say that we were less taken by the Sakura cocktail, a taste of Japan, mixed with Belvedere Vodka, Sake, cherry blossom and Moët & Chandon champagne. Whilst all these flavours should (and to a certain extent do) work together, the flavour was just too subtle for our taste, compared to the many bolder options on the Taste of the World menu.
St James Bar remains an elegant hideaway to drop in for a pre-dinner drink or two. We don’t have the exact prices for each of the cocktails but expect to pay £15-£20 per drink, based on our previous experience. This price point reflects the creativity, presentation of the drinks and the service you will receive. Located only a few minutes’ from Piccadilly, St James Bar is therefore an ideal venue to start or finish an impressive start for a date night.
The Taste of the World menu continues to delight featuring novel flavour combinations, complex technical techniques (to imbue the flavours), and some stand-out drinks.
Location: St James Bar, Sofitel St James, 6 Waterloo Place, London, SW1Y 4AN
For more information and to book a table, visit sofitelstjames.com.