Changes at The Ritz to put its bar on top

Rivoli Bar cocktailA new cocktail list and vintage spirits are set to help put the Rivoli Bar at London’s Ritz Hotel on the path to being recognised as one of the world’s best bars.

Luis Simoes, who joined as bar manager from London’s One Aldwych a year ago, introduced a new menu on December 1 with Prohibition-inspired cocktails, barrel-ageing and vintage ingredients.

Bars at other top London hotels regularly feature in lists of best bars such as the Savoy, the Langham and the Connaught, but the Ritz has been neglected. While the hotel and its bar opened in 1906, the Rivoli Bar was replaced by shops from 1972 to 2001 when it was restored in an Art Deco style by interior designer Tessa Kennedy.

“We want it to be the number-one bar in London,” Luis said. “There is a lot of competition out there. We are moving with the times to deliver the same as other five-star hotel bars.”

There is a new list of Prohibition-inspired cocktails such as the Rivoli 10, made with The Dalmore 15 Year Old whisky, Domaine de Canton ginger liqueur, a sweet vermouth maceration, red cherries and orange bitters. Tweaks on the classics include a Blue Blazer, Monkey Gland, Boulevardier, Georgia Mint Julep and Manhattan.

Spirits and liqueurs dating back to the 1940s are used in the vintage cocktails such as a Negroni, made with 1950s Gordon’s Gin, 1960s Campari Cordial and 1960s Americano Gancia, at £90. El Presidente uses Bacardi 150th Anniversary Rum plus Martini & Rossi red vermouth from the 1950s and Angostura Bitters, costing £250.

“Vintage cocktails are something I have wanted to do for a few years,” Luis says. “I have collected a lot of spirits and have a huge collection of vermouths. I like to see how age changes the structure of the spirit.”

To highlight the ingredients, Luis has designed a trolley that, from early next year, will allow bartenders to make drinks at guests’ tables. “I want them to see the bottles and share the pleasure of how a classic cocktail can be interpreted with old spirits.

“But it is not just about mixology. It’s about focusing on perfect service and giving the perfect experience for the guest.”

Originally published in the December 2012 issue of Bar magazine

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