Coburg Bar at The Connaught, London August 2015

Venue: The Coburg Bar at The Connaught Hotel, London
Recipe 1: Tanqueray 10, Cocchi dry vermouth, stirred, olives
Recipe 2: No.209, Gancia Bianco vermouth, stirred, orange twist
Price: Re-assuringly expensive
WBM score: 95/100

Firstly, thanks to our follower @boozeologist for the challenge. It was a memorable one.

The Connaught is a boutique, luxury hotel nestled in the heart of fashionable Mayfair. It has a rich history, beginning in 1815 as the Prince of Saxe-Coburg Hotel. After a comprehensive rebuild that started in 1892, the new Coburg Hotel (re)opened in 1897. Some twenty years later as the Great War waned, the presiding owners re-christened the hotel as The Connaught. And the name has persisted until today. Which leads us nicely to the Coburg Bar (and you should have figured out the origins of that name by now or you just haven’t been paying attention).

Our friend Babajide from the bar at the Balmoral Hotel in Edinburgh recommended his previous colleague Jamie Cardwell as a good man to know. Luck was on our side as Jamie was in residence at the bar when we visited and took exceptionally good care of us. Jamie, though a mere child by our grey hair standards, is knowledgable beyond his years; it was a pleasure to spend a couple of hours with him talking about all things gin…

We began as always with our current benchmark Tanqueray 10 Martini. Jamie did an exemplary job, listening carefully to our request and delivering just what we expected. As we sipped the first Martini, our perusal of the wonderfully well-stocked shelves prompted Jamie to provide us with a number of samples. Notable amongst them the Tanqueray “Malacca” Gin, now a (very) limited edition that is near impossible to find in the UK. We also tried Monkey 47, an offering from the Black Forest. The 47 refers to the number of botanicals used in its production. Our feeling is that it has about 30 botanicals too many – it presents more as a liqueur than a neat Gin. Still, it’s apparently very popular.

Per our very scientific method, the next testing step is to ask our tame bartender to mix a Martini of his or her choice. Jamie opted for a No.209 Martini with Gancia Bianco Vermouth and an orange twist. Though this is Jamie’s current favourite, it was a tad sweet for our purist (some would say prescriptivist) palettes.

We completed our evening with a quick tour of the hotel and the alternative “Connaught Bar,” and an introduction to  Agostino, head bartender. Another visit is warranted, obviously.

James Thomas