Bar review: Passport cocktail menu – St James Bar, London

St James Bar Passport Menu
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Tim Firmager

Tim divides his time being a Digital Consultant in The City and as a food and travel writer across the globe. When he's not working as one of the Lifestyle Editors here at Vada, he's planning his next trip, or on the lookout for the latest food crazes or unusual foods in London's markets.
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The recently refurbished St James Bar at Sofitel London St James has launched a new menu: Passport, allowing drinkers to explore the world through cocktails. As avid travellers and cocktail drinkers, this was an ideal venue for Vada to visit.

St James Bar

Situated on the corner of Pall Mall and Waterloo Place (about 5 minutes’ walk from Piccadilly Circus tube station), the bar at Sofitel St James has been transformed by interiors specialist and architect, Jim Hamilton. The design of St James bar includes curved plush velvet seating in samphire-like shades, brass accents and colourful rows of bottled handmade tinctures, bitters and liqueurs behind the centrepiece bar. The painting of the huge cock on the ceiling (a French cockerel wearing an English military uniform) is a nod to the hotel brand’s blend of French history and local culture.

Passport cocktail menu

The new menu is a collaborative effort from the whole team at St James Bar. Named ‘Passport’, the cocktail menu allows guests to journey across the globe in cocktail form, showcasing unusual or unique ingredients from the cocktail’s country of origin. The menu itself resembles a real passport and each cocktail has a passport entry stamp of its country. The Passport menu also includes QR barcodes alongside its description, which will direct guests to a video showing how each cocktail is made by the bar team.

We sampled 6 of the cocktails in the menu, which were:

  • Shodu (Japan) – made with Roku gin, black cherry syrup infused with green tea, apricot, lemon juice, egg white and suze bitters (£16). We were impressed by the delicate Japanese writing created atop the egg-white foam, and like us, guests will no doubt be asking where they can get these unique china cups.
  • 5 to 7 (Italy) – made from Amaro Montenegro, coffee-infused Campari, Carpano Antica formula vermouth and Three Cents pink grapefruit soda (£17). Served in an Italian coffee Moka Pot, this cocktail is a nod to apertivo-hour in Italy, which can range from anything from a coffee to a Campari. This light, citrusy cocktail would be ideal on a summer’s day.
  • Heaven Howler (Iceland) – made from Himbrimi Old Tom gin, Martin Miller’s Westbourne dry gin, homemade rhubarb and thyme liqueur, lemon juice, sugar syrup, pale ale, and homemade beer soda (£21). This is the choice for gin lovers. This cocktail is playfully presented in the form of a pale beer with plenty of foam head, but don’t be deceived by its looks – the gin hit is very real.
  • 1st Step (America) – made from Maker’s Mark, Barbadillo Medium Sherry, Campari, Orange curaçao infused with grapefruit, pepper & strawberry, vanilla syrup and Rocktails Orangewood (£18). Remembering man’s legendary first steps on the moon, this serve (in a silver rocket no less) is by the far the showiest cocktail on the menu, and an essential choice for a visit to the bar.
  • Chasing The Sun (Greece) – made from Olive-Oil-fat-washed Beluga Noble Vodka, homemade thyme and oregano syrup, citric acid saline solution, Roots Mastic liqueur and lemon juice (£18). A fancy serve, in a glass with blue decoration reminiscent of the Aegean, this cocktail hits all the aromatic notes.
  • Victory Martini (England) – made from Plymouth gin, homemade pine honey & wine leaves cordial, flavoured with Cognac (£17). An elegantly served drink, a sip of sophistication.

The bar snacks pairing menu at St James Bar has been created in collaboration with chef Anthony Demetre of Wild Honey St James (the hotel restaurant next door). We had a trio of small plates: crudités with mustard mayonnaise, perfectly crisp deep fried crab croquettes, and a few mouthfuls of tender, buttermilk-marinated chicken with garlic mayonnaise.

Overall thoughts

The elegant interior of St James Bar makes for a perfect aperitif before a West End dinner. Cocktails are at the cher end of the spectrum, but this price does justify the service, creative cocktail menu and playful execution. Most obvious of these is for the 1st Step cocktail, which we rank as one of the most exciting cocktail presentations we have seen.

Bar snacks were essential to help soak up the alcohol. If likely to have more than one round, we recommend ordering a plate of the buttermilk chicken.

St James Bar is located at Sofitel Hotel London St James, 6 Waterloo Place, London SW1Y 4AN.

For more information, visit wildhoneystjames.co.uk

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