Bar Swift has launched a new Downstairs drinks menu to celebrate Soho’s eclectic and multi-faceted culture. We head to the basement of this industry favourite to see what The Hospitality Menu has in store for us.
Bar Swift is by no means new to us or many Soho-frequenting drinkers. If we’re ever in Central, chances are we’ll end up popping in for its famous Irish Coffee (£10), made with Colombian dark-roast filter coffee from the neighbouring Algerian Coffee Stores, hand-whipped cream, Demerara sugar, stout-finished Irish whiskey, and finished with a fresh grating of nutmeg.
With its inventive bartenders, top quality drinks and neighbourhood feel, it’s no wonder that this multi-award-winning bar (most recently crowned Bar of the Year at CLASS Bar Awards 2020) commands love and loyalty. So, when we found out that a new menu was afoot, we couldn’t wait to dive in.
The Hospitality Menu
The new “Hospitality Menu” aims to highlight Soho’s iconic heritage, people and places through a creatively curated selection of cocktails. Five of Swift’s old favourites (including the Irish Coffee – phew!) are joined by 15 new additions. The menu itself features quirky illustrations of characters from the 1950s to today, drawn up by artist Helena Bonastre.
We start proceedings off with a Ruffian (£12), which our infinitely affable and vivacious server Roísín names as one of her favourites. With a luscious Old Forester bourbon base, this boozy number is laced with maple, spiced with Brazilian bitters and topped with a quarter cut of fresh fig. The maple smooths the palate, adding sweet complexity whilst the unusual bitters bring full nuttiness, vanilla, smoke, cocoa nibs, cloves and a gentle echo of marzipan and fruit, that all work with the barrel spice of the bourbon and help to tie in the fig. An absolute stunner of a drink that continues to develop on the palate as the ice block melts.
Next up, Cobblestone (£13) throws out heady dark fruit syrup and rich, spiralling depth thanks to the coupling of Black Bush Irish Whiskey and olorosso sherry. The whiskey’s notes of chewy raisin and cooked black fruit, pair handsomely with those of the sherry. Further hints of cocoa and nut are brought out by chocolate bitters and nocino (walnut liqueur). On first sip, a barrage of flavours hit us, all jostling for attention at once. Yet as the drink goes on, a regal equilibrium is reached and this slow sipper makes us sink back into our seat with unhurried enjoyment.
Praline Flip (Swift Spiced Rum, Guinness, hazelnut orgeat, egg; £11) is a light and foamy twist of a classic Flip, recalling a lightly rum-spiked hazelnut milkshake with a side of Werther’s originals and nutmeg pick-me-up. At the other end of the menu sits Red Studio (£11) – a delicate Summer concoction featuring creamy Absolut Elyx vodka, fresh strawberry, hazelnut, tea, lemon, cream and Prosecco.
We finish our drinks and take a moment to reflect on the scope of the new menu. Like the Soho of yester-year, there’s a great deal of diversity, with many tastes catered for and dedicated showmanship at the heart of each flavour performance. Modern twists on classic cocktails, such as the breath-taking Evita (£11) – a Ramos-style drink with light carbonation, subtle milky texture, aromatic almond and pleasantly bitter orange flower – sit alongside old school garnishing (à la Jaguar, £12, whose cucumber ribbon rim welcomes a wonderfully refreshing watermelon and Lillet Rose palate, balanced by smoky and vegetal mezcal, and dry fino).
Bar Swift has done it again, with imaginative cocktails that tell a story; a well-rounded menu of old favourites and new loves; and its staff’s ever-present relaxed geniality. We know that we’ll continue to visit Swift whenever we’re in town, yet having now sampled some of The Hospitality Menu, we may be persuaded to stray from our usual order. After all, you can’t really go wrong at Swift.
12 Old Compton St, Soho, London W1D 4TQ