Challenge Kabina: creative mixology at Cassis Bistro

Pavel Kabina
There are not many bartenders who would be brave enough to face a panel of drinks writers and accept the challenge of making a cocktail with any ingredient presented to them. Even when those ingredients ranged from crab-infused cachaça to salt liquorice vodka liqueur, Pavel Kabina hardly paused before attempting to come up with a well-balanced cocktail. He is head bartender at Cassis Bistro in south Kensington, London, which is best known as a restaurant but also boasts a small cocktail bar. “Cassis opened a year ago and we focused on the restaurant but now we want to talk about the bar,” Pavel explains. “There are not many cocktail bars around here where people can get good after-work drinks.”

Cachaça infused with an actual crab is apparently not uncommon in Brazil, appealing to tourists disgusted by the pickled creature staring out of the bottle. Pavel managed to make a surprisingly drinkable cocktail out of this crustacean-flavoured spirit, shaking it with lemon, honey, blueberries, raspberry vinegar and ice and straining it over crushed ice. More challenging was the Classic Zeus ouzo which, despite some inventive mixology, continued to be dominated by the overpowering anise flavour. Pavel mixed it with Captain Morgan’s rum, cranberry jelly, cranberry juice, lemon and sugar syrup. Another surprisingly good drink was made with salt liquorice vodka liqueur, which he combined with Scotch whisky, blackberries, maple syrup and cranberry juice.

I took along a bottle of Chilean aged pisco Alto del Carmen which was an easy one for Pavel whose background includes being a bartender at the Radisson Edwardian Hampshire Hotel in Leicester Square, London, and for InterContinental Hotel Group. He dubbed the result a Jasmine Pisco Martini:

Jasmine Pisco Martini

45ml Alto del Carmen envejecido pisco
20ml Domaine de Canton ginger liqueur
15ml Honey
10ml Lemon juice
A teaspoon of jasmine tea

Shake the ingredients with ice and strain into a glass. Garnish with a twist of lemon.

Apart from Pavel’s ability to create good cocktails from odd ingredients, he has put together a great drinks list at Cassis, with a strong emphasis on infused spirits. He is continually infusing with fruits in large jars on the bar counter while the menu features ingredients such as vodka infused with apple, cucumber and rosemary and another vodka infused with watermelon, lavender and vanilla. Other ingredients on the list include a rum infused with pomegranate, orange and basil and a gin infused with cucumber, bell peppers and black pepper. Signature drinks include the Superstar Martini:

Superstar Martini
Superstar Martini

60ml Bacardi Superior rum infused with papaya and star fruit
20ml Licor 43
7ml Lime juice
50ml Pineapple juice
Fresh mint

Muddle the mint and shake with the other ingredients. Strain into a martini glass. Garnish with a star fruit.

The cocktail menu is changed with the seasons, and current favourites include the delicious Christmas drink, Naughty Santa:

Naughty Santa
Naughty Santa

40ml Bacardi Superior rum infused with clementines and cinnamon
25ml Grand Marnier
50ml Pomegranate juice
3ml Lime Juice
7ml Cinnamon syrup
10ml Egg white

Shake the ingredients and strain into a martini glass. Dust with cinnamon powder.

Nestled between Knightsbridge and Chelsea, Cassis is a welcome addition to the area, created by restaurant group Marc in the former premises of The Oratory restaurant. It is building trade for the bar in late afternoon and after work by offering cocktails at half price from 3pm to 7.30pm. Alongside the excellent Provençale cuisine, Cassis has created a bar offering that is worth a visit in its own right.

Cassis Bistro, 232-236 Brompton Road, London SW3 2BB Tel: 020 7581 1101

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