‘Perhaps,’ I wondered, ‘she was an illusion?’
‘More likely,’ said Mrs Kentishtowner, ‘she was a portent of our impending doom.’
No, we weren’t discussing a Somerfield sighting of Sam Cam in baseball cap and shades; we were, however, pondering the whereabouts of a mixologist who, having served some delicious libations at Blues Kitchen, gave us the most sensational espresso martini “on the house” – before vanishing from sight. Just like that. Pif Paf Pouf.
Now we all know that cocktails, in the great scheme of things, aren’t, of course, very important; they’re not what we’ll remember as we climb the long ladder up towards eternity. And yes, there are ‘seriouser issues’ (to quote Betty Boo), especially in the mixed neighbourhood that is NW5. And yet it’s a drizzly bank holiday weekend – and so today we present a caffeine-jolted high-kick through the area’s finest of the finest. It’s for your souls.
Some history before one’s thirst is quenched? Well, it’s a relatively recent creation, the espresso martini, a blend of vodka, cold espresso and kahlua invented in the late 1980s by legendary mixologist Dick Bradsell. And, as he explains below, its genesis was, apparently, a supermodel (Ms Campbell, perhaps?) who demanded a drink that would ‘wake me up, then fuck me up.’ Charming, we think you’ll agree.
So the skill, we believe, with perfecting the espresso martini is to make it sharp yet subtle, not sweet and icky. You could try one at Made In Camden, although we felt the barstaff under-trained, and the drinks on the sticky side. A much better option is the elegant warehouse bar at Spring Studios (join free if you’re a local!), but even here you might need to ask Emmanuel, the charming barman, to go easy on the sugar syrup. Two very impressive options – as we have eulogised on these pages before – are Kentish Canteen and Bull and Last : our top tips, in fact, for a grown-up NW5-tini.
But our new flame in North London has to be the opulent bar at the Gilbert Scott. Regard the ceilings! The gold! The suave ageing politician! The American wife who leant over and asked: ‘What are they? And lo, we quaffed a martini so so perfectly-judged, so life-giving it would bring a tear to the eye of dear John Betjeman waiting, eternally, on the platform next door.
And, as for our vanishing cocktail expert back at the Blues Kitchen? Why, she swore by bourbon, of course, not vodka.
That is, if she wasn’t as illusory as we feared.