After experimentation and extensive research into ancient herbs and botanicals, the team at Waeska bar at The Mandrake hotel in London have unveiled their new cocktail menu in time for the summer.
Created under bar manager Walter Pintus, the list is founded on ethnobotany – the study of a region’s plants and their practical uses through the traditional knowledge of local cultures.
Sticking to the bar’s focus on ingredients with traditional medicinal properties, they have looked to Asia and South America to inform their choice of the 12 “ethno” plants that form the basis of the menu.
Using the mystical plant that gives the hotel its name, the Mandrake (pictured below) uses the bar’s own mandrake essence, with just one drop bringing the milk punch-style cocktail to life. Combining Grey Goose vodka, Cocchi Americano vermouth and the buttery taste of clarified juniper milk, this is a smooth Vesper-style serve.
The Amazonian plant guarana contains more than twice the concentration of caffeine as coffee and is known for its antioxidant qualities. A tincture of the plant is mixed with Plantation rum washed with coconut oil to create the energising Guarana cocktail (pictured top). It is balanced with flavours of passion fruit, orange curaçao and coffee, this creamy drink is Waeska’s exotic answer to the Espresso Martini.
Inspired by a classic Hanky Panky, the Calamus is made with Star of Bombay Gin infused with calamus, an Asian root that was traditionally used to cure stomach ailments and to make bitters. Sweet notes of Italicus Rosolio di Bergamotto, blood orange-infused sake and citrussy grapefruit offset its aromatic and bitter profile to create a light and elegant aperitif, garnished with floregano, the oregano flower.
The Nutmeg’s taste transports to a tropical island by combining camomile and coconut cordial, apple juice and clarified milk whey with 44.5% ABV Bacardí Heritage rum. The addition of grated nutmeg creates a full-bodied and warming yet refreshing drink.
The drink called Pine (pictured below) combines the flavour of pine with ginjo sake, adding earthy layers to the savoury notes of the mix of shiitake-infused Woodford Reserve whiskey and Martini Ambrato vermouth. It is finished with a touch of sweet Greek resin liqueur Chios Mastiha.
The Palo Santo is named after a wild tree native to Southern and Central America which, like cedar wood, is often enjoyed for its cleansing and healing properties. This aromatic wood has been used to infuse Tapatio Blanco Tequila, giving the drink a smoky but delicate taste. As a nod to the bar team’s extensive travels, this citrusy mix is served long in a bespoke South American terracotta vessel with lime juice and a soda made of panela cane sugar and kola nut.
The Sage is a mix of Gem & Bolt Mezcal With Damiana with savoury sage and tomato water, giving the cocktail a distinctive umami taste, while dry sherry and St-Germain elderflower liqueur add a sweeter note. It is served straight up in a coupette dusted with kalamata olive powder and is an ideal pairing with Waeska’s bar snack, Le Serge Parmesan tapioca arancini squares.
The passion flower used in the bar’s new Passion Flower cocktail is grown in The Mandrake’s own garden although it has traditionally been used in South American countries to treat insomnia and anxiety. The fresh, elegant Ruinart champagne-based drink also includes jasmine from the hotel’s garden, combined with the zesty flavours of Nardini Acqua di Cedro lemon liqueur and clear clementine juice. The excess clementine pulp, a by-product of the clarification process, is dehydrated and cut into shard-like pieces which are used as garnish.
Skullcap is one of the most important medicinal herbs in Chinese medicine which is made into tea to make the Skullcup, mixed with Dalmore 15 Year Old scotch, a herbal aquavit and tonka bean. The drink’s orange-yellow colour is a result of the use of an Aztec berry syrup comprising physalis, inca and a hint of tonka. It is garnished with mint leaves, and a white chocolate and tonka bean skull which gives the drink a fun finish that ties in with the Chinese herb.
Hemp is best known for its relaxing qualities due to its main active compound, CBD. The hemp oil used in the Hemp cocktail is produced near London and infuses Yaguara cachaça to give the drink a fresh and herbaceous flavour. The Hemp cocktail (pictured below) also uses a vibrant sorrel ice cream from the hotel’s Serge et le Phoque restaurant. Along with Yellow Chartreuse, the garden-fresh finish is enhanced and elongated with the subtle aromas from a basil soda.
Betel nut from south-east and southern Asia is traditionally chewed to extract its energetic and euphoric properties. For the Betel Nut cocktail, it provides the garnish and has been made into a milk for a smooth and sweet consistency. This is mixed with Rémy Martin 1738 Cognac and sesame oil-washed calvados with matuzalem oloroso sherry and Peruvian herb, maca.
Hops are used for the bar’s new non-alcoholic cocktail, called Hops, combined with kombucha, the fermented and effervescent tea, infused with Darjeeling. Rhubarb and summer red fruits complete the recipe, plus a garnish of dehydrated strips of pink rhubarb.
Waeska, The Mandrake, 20-21 Newman Street, London W1T 1PG
Tel: 020 3146 7770
All pictures by Jason Bailey Studio.