London’s West Hampstead cocktail bar Heads + Tails is, as its name suggests, contrasts two sides of the same coin: upstairs a light atmosphere, akin to a light-filled made.com showroom with spritzes and cocktails to match; and downstairs a darker setting with heavier cocktails based on whisky and rum. This heaven-and-hell approach to both bar interior and cocktail menu intrigued us enough at Vada Magazine to try it out.
The ground floor is light, with high ceilings and flooded with natural light. Heads has a cool colour palette, with subtle pastel, touches of gold on the space-saving fold down tables, and a marble topped bar. Full-length glass windows at both the front and rear of the bar create a sense of openness, inviting guests into a relaxed drinking area with a separate garden area. The cocktail menu mimics the styling of the bar, concentrating on light low-alcohol serves, aperitivo-style drinks, twists on classics cocktails and contemporary libations.
Descending guests will find Tails, designed to feel like the dark, moody antithesis to its heavenly counterpart upstairs. A much lower ceiling (though still ample for this 6ft 1inch writer), atmospheric dark walls, plush comfortable seating and a beautifully warm solid wood bar will lead guests into the temptation of a cocktail, and then a few more. Tails serves short, bold-style offerings based mainly on bourbon, rum and Scotch.
The menu contains sections for cocktails belonging to both Heads and Tails bars, though guests can drink either cocktail on either floor. We tried a selection, which includes some of the barman’s latest purchases, absinthe and Double-Jus (a super-intense Calvados), and the menu is complemented by a dedicated list of low-alcohol drinks.
- Dill of the Century (£7) mixed with Dolin blanc, Dild Akvavit, citric, elderflower, absinthe, Sekforde rum mixer – whilst light and refreshing, this was more mint of the century than dill.
- Corpse Reviver No. 175 (£9.50) mixed with Fords gin, Dolin blanc, Italicus, Fresh lemon, bitters (bonpland chocolate and mace flower), a twist on the after-work essential but could do with an extra drop of the chocolate bitters.
- Letters to Theo (£10.50) mixed with Beefeater gin, strawberry syrup, fresh lemon, Absintheroux, Moet et Chandon champagne, a vibrant colour and pairs very well with the below cocktail.
- Smoke On The Water (£9.50) – Olmeca Altos Plata, Mezcal verde, fresh lime, watermelon syrup
- Twist of Fate (£10) mixed with Wild turkey bourbon, ginger & cinnamon syrup, orange blossom water
- Diamond In The Rough (£9.50) mixed with Wild turkey rye, smith and cross, ardbeg 10 year old, bold London spirit, blood orange sherbet
- Sunset Boulevardier (£11) mixed with Wild turkey 101, barrel aged campari, strawberry and cherrywood cocci torino Vermouth, a delicious nightcap, and most tempting drink of the evneing.
Heads + Tails is located at 175 West End Lane, London, NW6 2LH
With an engaging, authentic service, reasonably priced cocktails, and a fun interior concept, Heads + Tails could become the next go-to place after work. The venue has also launched a small menu of small plates, though we did not try any on our visit. These are expected to cost in the region £5 – £7.
For more information, or to book, visit headsandtails.bar.