Review: St James Bar – Once In A Lifetime cocktail menu

St James Bar Passport Menu
Tim Firmager
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St James Bar in London recently launched their newest cocktail menu, Once In A Lifetime, where each drink is inspired by a different bucket list experience. We at Vada checked in to see how they taste compared to their inspirational experience.

St James Bar

At 5 minutes walk, inside the Sofitel St James hotel, St James Bar, like the rest of the hospitality industry, is still struggling to recruit and retain enough staff. That said, the bar team on our visit, led by bar manager Kostas Bardas, have maintained friendly, attentive service accompanying the new Once In a Lifetime cocktail menu. This follows last year’s Imagination menu, which we reviewed in 2021.

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.

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Once In A Lifetime cocktail menu

Sixteen new cocktails have been (re)imagined on the Once In A Lifetime menu, which launched last month. This cocktail menu sees a blend of classic cocktails with a twist and other novel creations, each paired with a bucket list experience. We tried a sample and our favourites were:

  • Green Lights (£20) associated with seeing the Northern Lights, is a pine needle and lemon sorbet served in a good measure of very chilled Tanqueray No. Ten gin. This dry, citrusy and playful cocktail surprised and delighted, exactly what the St. James bar team are known for from their previous cocktail menus. This would be a perfect choice in place of dessert, and definitely a concept we’ll be attempting to recreate at our own dinner parties.
  • The Passenger (£21) is designed to invoke a memory or imagination of being on the Orient Express. This negroni (made with Boatyard gin) invokes even more botanicals served with fresh sage.
  • Between The Clouds (£18) is designed to inspire a hot-air balloon trip, but this actually brought back childhood memories of eating Cantaloupe with dried ginger. This cocktail, made with Ketel One Vodka, ginger-infused vodka, and cantaloupe juice is luscious, fruity and something quite unexpected on a cocktail menu.

Some guests may find the connection between drink and experience doesn’t always match their own experiences. For example Volto (£22), an invigorating, sparkling spritz drink served with feathers as a nod to carnival, didn’t match our connotation with Venice, which has always been a peach bellini.

Overall thoughts

St James Bar remains an elegant hideaway to drop in for an evening drink. The cocktails on this Once In A Lifetime menu are priced at the upper end of the scale, but this reflects the creativity and 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 in nearby Soho.

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The Once In A Lifetime menu includes some surprising and delightful drinks, but not all of these may match guests own connotations or experiences of the associated bucket list items. Don’t let that deter you, and definitely any gin-lover needs to experience Green Lights.

Location: St James Bar, Sofitel St James, 6 Waterloo Place, London, SW1Y 4AN

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About 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.