Zoe Fryday visits Murder Inc in London’s Fitzrovia, the latest bar from The Cocktail Trading Co
The Cocktail Trading Company (CTC) never fails to impress and excite when it comes to serving a bit of tongue-in-cheek theatricality, taking imbibers on a tantalising journey into the weird, wacky and wonderful. Murder Inc, the team’s latest venture, symbolises the evolution of CTC’s creative style. The focus is on showcasing big, bold flavours, with an air of simplicity and sophistication. But don’t worry, you’ll still find lots of crazy concoctions to stimulate the taste buds.
Tucked away on Hanway Street in London’s trendy Fitzrovia, the new neighbourhood bar takes inspiration from the gangster noir of the 1940s and 50s. It brings a quirky and engaging concept to the heart of the capital. “Ever since our first love popped up on Great Marlborough street in 2015 and we launched CTC, our hearts have been longing to come back to Soho,” says Olly Brading, one third of the CTC trio, who works with fellow founders Elliot Ball and Andy Mil. “We love the West End with a passion and were just biding our time for the right spot to come along.”
Industrial New York meets mid-century glamour at this dark, dangerous, decadent cocktail haven. A sizeable statement bar takes centre stage in a room where oak panelling, woven cane and eclectic artwork pops against exposed brick walls. As you enter, it’s difficult to miss the giant red neon sign screaming ‘Highway to Hell’ at the top of the stairs, positioned next to a satirical life-sized cardboard cut-out of Donald Trump. Beyond this, contrasting textures and low-lit regal colours are offset by an array of peculiar trinkets, ranging from old vintage photographs to American football paraphernalia and mason jars brimming with fermenting ingredients. There’s even a pet piñata named Cinnamon.
For the Murder Inc team, the top priority is providing customers with a warm welcome and safe, local vibe. The bar’s easy-going nature is reflected everywhere, from the sexy yet cosy interior through to the all-encompassing drinks menu. “Eventually we want to build a big ol’ family of regulars,” points out Olly. “Somewhere you can go and you’ve got your own tankard hanging on the wall, ya know? One local dog already has his own dog bowl behind the bar. True story. We want guests to feel that local neighbourhood bar, that ‘Cheers’ vibe, but with slightly posher drinks, attentive service and just a sprinkle of that boujee this-night-could-escalate feel in the air.”
The 30-strong ‘Hit List’ cocktail menu is split into five sections: Specialities of the House, Speedballers, High Street Hustlers, Bad to the Bone and Naughty Lil Buggers. From the Aviation & Tonic, a blend of Hendricks gin, lemon, Luxardo Maraschino, violet and tonic water, through to Hay Zeus, uniting Olmeca Plata tequila, celery-hay shrub, blue wine and smoked coconut, the offering embodies an array of different flavours and styles, meaning there’s something for everyone. “Things have evolved a lot for us in terms of drinks. There’s still weird and wacky, but the quiver’s grown and we have a few more kinds of arrow available to us,” continues Olly. “The venue is real slick. Many of the drinks reflect this, though a lot of them still have that original mad feel.”
According to Olly, Elliot and Andy, the Cannonball Collins has rolled out of the menu fast, and reflects one of CTC’s more recent approaches to serves. In order to get the body of the drink right, the bartenders batch, chill and carbonate the whole thing. The cocktail itself mixes Flor de Cana 7 year rum, Hennessy VS cognac, pineapple soda, with a touch of triple sec, Murder Inc’s own acid blend and a few other bits. Olly says: “It’s light and refreshing but full of flavour, and served on frozen marbles – partly because they’re covered in nucleation points that enhance the aroma, partly because they keep the drink cold without add dilution, and partly because they’re, well… marbles, and that’s cool.” Absinthe fans can try Death in the Afternoon, a house serve on tap combining Pernod Absinthe, ginger and agave sherbet and Moët Champagne. For guests who aren’t after cocktails, a selection of beer, wine and fizz is available. Whatever you choose, there’s always the option of delving into a side of luxurious loaded ‘hub cap’ nachos!
Since opening, Murder Inc has received a great amount of love and support from the industry and locals. “As far as the future? World domination. And after that, Saturn, we’ll take Saturn. No but seriously, we just want to build a bar culture whereby Murder feels like a home and a safe haven – a warm, loving and welcoming place to be all week long.”
Murder Inc, 36 Hanway St, London, W1T 1UF
Behind the scenes
Interior design: Andy Mil of The Cocktail Trading Co
Contractor: Stanrock Building Service
Lighting: Felix Lighting
Neon lighting and signage: Capital Graffiti
Flooring: Wooden Floor and Beyond, Concept Tile
Furniture: Trent Furniture, Eclipse Furniture, Worktop Express
Glassware: Libby, Utopia, Steelite, Cocktail Kingdom from Klaremont and Alliance
Originally published in the August 2019 print edition of Bar magazine.