The recent trend for cocktails made from ancient spirits is gathering pace in London with the news that boutique Shoreditch bar the Nightjar has launched a cocktail list featuring rare vintage spirits at deliberately affordable prices. The ambitious menu is made up of scarce examples of all the major spirits sourced over the past two years by co-owner Edmund Weil and bar manager Marian Beke at auction and through specialist dealers.
Given the Nightjar’s speakeasy theme, the aim was to create a collection of cocktails made with bottles from the golden ages of alcohol history. “While other bars might crank up the price of vintage spirits to eye-watering levels, ours sell at affordable prices so a wider audience can enjoy incredibly fine alcohol,” says co-owner Rosie Stimpson. Highlights include a bottle of 1863 Hannisville Rye from Hannis Distillery in West Virginia, which predates Prohibition by 57 years.
Also on the list is a rare Monticello Rye from Baltimore dating back to the 1880s, the favourite brand of Baltimore journalist and anti-Prohibitionist H.L Mencken. Regarded as one of the most influential American writers of the first half of last century, Mencken spoke out against the temperance movement, calling Prohibition “a horror”. Other vintage spirits featured include El Chico rum from the 1930s, Dow’s Pigeon Blend Scotch whisky from the 1920s, Marnier Lapostolle Cognac (c.1910), and Fox's Cherry Brandy from the 1940s.
“We’re excited about offering our customers the chance to sample what are essentially liquid time capsules,” said Beke. Measures are available from £30, while a Manhattan made with rye from 1863 and a Martinez mixed with 1910 Old Tom gin are priced at £100. A taste of British liquid history is available through a rare bottle of Pimms No. 1 (c. 1905), from the brand’s heyday when the company was owned by Mayor of Lonodn Frederick Sawyer.
Last month, “maestro” bartender Salvatrore Calabrese broke the Guinness World Record for the most expensive cocktail at The Playboy Club with “Salvatore’s Legacy,” priced at £5,500 a glass. The cocktail was composed of 40ml of 1788 Clos de Griffier Vieux Cognac, 20ml of 1770 Kummel Liqueur, 20ml of 1860 Dubb Orange Curaçao and two dashes of Angostura Bitters from the 1900s.