Rising star: the new bar at The Athenaeum

Athenaeum Bar

Mark Ludmon visits the new bar opened at The Athenaeum under Giancarlo Mancino

The Athenaeum has long been one of London’s best-known five-star hotels but, after a major refurbishment and with a new team on board, its bar is raising its status on the international cocktail scene. The beautiful 1930s Art Deco building in Piccadilly has been relaunched as The Athenaeum Hotel & Residences after being remodelled with new layers of warmth and subtle glamour. The public spaces have been completely revamped, with the bar moving to an area formerly called the Garden Room and given its own separate entrance in Down Street.

Along with the rest of the hotel, the bar’s elegant interior is the work of Kinnersley Kent Design, furnished with suede, velvet and leather in a palette of blue-green, lemon yellow and dark green. Furniture has been designed with long, slim forms and plenty of sinuous metal, including bar stools in brass and black velvet, lounge chairs in butternut velvet and armchairs in black leather and saffron roebuck.

The white-oiled oak flooring contrasts with the small drinks tables with Nero Marquina marble tops and larger tables with black bases and Verde Guatemala marble tops. The bar itself has a high-gloss reeded black front with stepped brass details and a Nero Dorato marble top with gold and white geometric veining. At the back, a screen plays a montage of romantic embraces from classic movies, inspired by the Hollywood stars who have stayed at the hotel.

Athenaeum Bar

The bar and the new restaurant have been opened in partnership with Chris and Jeff Galvin, the Galvin Brothers, whose Michelin-starred restaurants include Galvin La Chapelle and Galvin at Windows in London. They brought in leading Italian bartender Giancarlo Mancino, founder of Mancino vermouths, to oversee the bar and make it a world-class destination for cocktails. He has maintained its previous reputation for great whiskies, with some on display in glass cabinets, but added other craft spirits such as mezcal, sotol and calvados. “The bar will be known for its new and unusual drinks menu,” Giancarlo says. “Don’t expect to see Campari, Bombay or Gordon’s in here!”

The cocktail list comes as a box of individual cards, each carrying a full recipe and picture of the drink. It features original and twisted classics such as the pre-batched Clay Pot Negroni made with Mancino vermouths, Rinomato Bitter and VII Hills Gin, kept for at least 48 hours in a clay pot. Another is the Shaken Rob Roy (pictured below) which is made with the hotel’s own blended scotch whisky with Mancino Chinato, Mancino Vermouth Rosso, Cherry Heering and Angostura Bitters, shaken and strained into a Ginza rocks glass over a chunk of ice.

A Very Brooklyn Mancino uses Vulson Old Rhino rye whiskey mixed with Mancino dry vermouth, Cynar, maraschino liqueur and orange and mandarin bitters, while the Down Street Manhattan combines Four Roses Single Barrel bourbon with port wine, plum bitters, raspberries, lime juice and sugar syrup, with a smoked cinnamon garnish. “The drinks will be ‘showcased’,” Giancarlo explains. “Theatre is a huge part of the bar experience, and all drinks are served in elegant, classic glassware which I have especially created to enhance the flavours.”

The Athenaeum Hotel & Residences, 116 Piccadilly, London W1J 7BJ
Tel: 020 7640 3333

Athenaeum Bar Rob Roy

Behind the scenes
Design: Kinnersley Kent Design
Main contractor: GPF Lewis
Bar system: Cantilever Bars
Lounge chairs: Brabbu, Baxter, Hamilton Conte
Bar stools, tables: Gubi
Furniture: Altfield
Floor lamp: Bert Frank
Wall light: Heathfield & Co
Rugs: Kasthall, Stepevi
Bar panels: Platonoff & Harris
Cabinets: Abrahams & Carlisle

Originally published in the November 2016 print edition of Bar magazine.

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