Multi-award-winning, Soho cocktail bar, Bar Swift (sister restaurant to Oriole and Nightjar), has launched a brand-new drinks menu of reinvented classics and simple serves for its downstairs bar. We made our way to the industry haunt to see what the team had created.
Located at “the other end” of Old Compton Street, Bar Swift’s shop-front entrance is simple and chic, with its monochrome palette and understated brushed metal signage. We step inside and find ourselves in a glamourous, mirrored room that looks a bit like an old school Hollywood late-night hangout. We’re directed downstairs to a low-lit den with semi-circular leather booths that lead towards a rich wooden bar serviced by two bantering bartenders, Sam and Max, who hand us our menus and kindly pose for a few photos (whilst mocking each other incessantly).
Cocktail legends and Bar Swift co-owners Bobby Hiddleston and Mia Johansson (previously of Dead Rabbit, Milk & Honey and Callooh Callay), have mixed things up with the drinks list, creating a “Swift Classics” section comprising a small number of the bar’s most popular drinks whilst introducing a whole host of newbies that blend timeless classics with current trends.
We decide to start with Belltower – a tall, creamy drink with a Maker’s Mark base. Perhaps a slightly odd drink for us to order in this weather due to the cream, we’re happily surprised to find that whilst fuller and richer, it isn’t heavy (perhaps due to the inclusion of egg white). The sweetness of Maker’s Mark works beautifully with the apricot to give a jammy deliciousness to this slow drinker, making it a lovely seasonal drink that that, unlike most summery concoctions, isn’t gone in a flash.
We then elect to liven up our palate with Shanghaied (Green chilli Pisco Porton, lime, cucumber, almond orgeat). The fresh green chilli adds a vegetal bite that works well with the lime. Cucumber stops the spice being harsh, mellowing the flavours and helping to create a mix that the pisco effortlessly completes.
We take a little break from cocktails to peruse the exhaustive whisky menu. We’ve been to a fair amount of whisky Meccas but Bar Swift’s selection is not only impressive but exceptionally reasonably priced, with a Pappy Van Winkle Family Reserve 23yr double measure at only £50 – that may sound a lot to non-Bourbon-lovers but this is a £2,500 bottle at retail so just imagine what a bar could charge! After making a mental note to return at the end of the month for a whisk(e)y session we order our next cocktails.
A twist on an Old Fashioned, Tinderbox (Angostura, ginger bitters, honey, orange juice, Clos Martin, peanut-butter Bacardi 8) proves to be an interesting one, not tasting of much at first but developing over time. Armagnac slower comes through, bolstered by the bitters. Honey and peat butter add a smooth element without quashing the gruffness and heat of the spirit.
We end the night with Sante Fe (Angostura, Hellfire shrub, tonka syrup, Martini Rubino, Smokey Monkey). This dressed up, smoky version of a Rob Roy is a delight. Smoke can be smelt from the get-go, hitting the palate along with the bitterness of vermouth. Chocolate and vanilla notes swirl around and there is a gentle afterthought of chilli. All-in-all, it is a lovely drink to finish the evening on and leave with the sense that this relaxed space with its great pricing (£10 for a fantastic cocktail in Central – don’t mind if we do) could very well become a regular drop-in spot for whenever we’re in Soho.
Bar Swift, 12 Old Compton St, Soho, London W1D 4TQ