Book launch event at Salvatore’s Bar, Mayfair

Cocktail parties are good. Book launch parties are good. It is rare that the two are so harmoniously conjoined.

Last week, I attended an event marking the re-release of Salvatore Calabrese’s book ‘Classic Cocktails’. It’s sold over a million copies since its release in the 90s, and has recently had a revamp. Since many of today’s hottest bartenders, mixologists and spirit enthusiasts fall firmly into the millennial category, Salvatore’s many years of experience make him well positioned to create a book of the timeless greats creations from the back bar.

He’s also a great host. I don’t find myself in Mayfair terribly often, and I find myself in the Playboy Club even less often, but the welcome was as warm as that of my local. It was pleasantly dimly lit, with stylish photography and sleek, comfy sofas. Drinks featuring heavy doses of event sponsor, Campari, were flowing freely as we arrived, some of which featured the venue’s very own flavour infused soda water. Cute Campari miniatures were positioned on the tables around candles, glowing beautifully. A nice touch.

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After Salvatore introduced his new book, and a few collaborators, came the highlight of the evening; the 1950s Negroni. With bottles of Gordons Gin, Martini, and Campari which dated back to the 50s, he recreated the classic drink. We each got a sample and it was delicious, with a depth and intensity of flavour that can’t quite be matched by spirits which haven’t been aged.

I picked up some tips too. Salvatore suggested a ‘lifting’ motion with the ice, rather than stirring, when mixing the spirits, allowing the liquid to move around more easily and helping the ice to do its job faster, and more efficiently.

Later, there was the opportunity to sample some of the bar’s signature creations. My personal favourite was the Tartan, forming part of a special international menu which featured drinks that Salvatore had been inspired to create during his travels around the world. I was intrigued by the description on the menu, but I was also apprehensive; I wasn’t sure that the subtly of the heather and lavender flavours would stand up to the robust Haig Club and Talisker scotch whisky, but the tastes combined beautifully. Served in an elegant curved glass with a metal rim, complete with a tartan ribbon, it is one of the best looking long drinks I’ve been served lately, and all without appearing kitsch.

All in all, a lovely evening. Can’t wait to try to recreate some of the book’s cocktail suggestions at home.

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