On our trip to Adare Manor, we had the pleasure of visiting the gorgeous, speakeasy-style bar, The Tack Room, to meet its head mixologist, Ariel Sanecki, and sample a number of his award-winning cocktails.
We lug our newly rotund forms downstairs to The Tack Room following a decadent dinner at The Oak Room (read our full review here), where we elect to have “just one” before heading back to our king-sized bed. However, Ariel has other plans.
Taking a pew at the marble-topped bar, Ariel hands us a menu before asking us if he can make us some “a few” of his award-winning cocktails. Happy to have the choice made for us, we sit back as he works away, quietly regaling us with the story of how he came to be at Adare Manor.
Over a year ago now since the hotel’s reopening, he was invited to launch The Tack Room and given free rein for the concept. “I felt like a small kin in a candy shop”, he beams, explaining that he left Clifton Hotel where he’d been for close to a decade to open this whisky bar/speakeasy concept at the Manor. Amongst his many challenges was the understanding that “Irish people don’t really drink cocktails but that is changing slowly”. Luckily for Ariel and his team, 60% of the hotel’s guests are American, who welcome the chance to sip on a cocktail or two. This is evident by the fact that we are the only non-US guests in the bar this evening.
Ariel places his first cocktail in front of us, Japanese Garden (Star of Bombay Gin, Sake, Matcha Green Tea Syrup, Yuzu Puree, Fresh Lime Juice, Rice Milk), which was named Overall Winner at the National Championships & Bartender Awards 2018. Light, gently vegetal with a subtle citric presence, this is a refreshing and balanced drink that is the perfect palate cleanser after a rich meal.
He follows this beauty with the cocktail he is making for the World Cocktail Competition, which he has named Cocktail King as a homage to the International Bartender Association’s (IBA) Alex Bowman, who passed away last year. Presentation is key to all Ariel’s creations and this is no exception. Placed on a bed of ice, with a blue light shining through it, Cocktail King comprises vodka, calvados, elderflower liqueur, champagne, agave, rhubarb puree and pink pepper. The carbonation takes on a prickle thanks to the pepper and there is a light syrupy nature from the rhubarb and calvados.
We sip our drink, transfixed by Ariel curling ribbons of cucumber and carefully placing them alongside pansies in a floral teacup before filling a matching teapot with the refreshing boozy cucumber tea that is Dunraven Delight. We hardly get a chance to sip from the cup before he is off making us another cocktail, gently brushing off our protests of satiation and genuine fear that we cannot fit anything further in our stomachs, saying that we don’t have to finish any of the drinks but that he would very much like us to try some others. Unable to say no to such a open and earnest offer, we agree, knowing full-well that the quality of drinks means that our consciences will not allow us to waste any.
Windhams Preserve is our next treat. Styled as a mint julep, smoky Lapsang Souchong infused Slaine Irish Whiskey wafts through our nostrils, wetting our appetite for this delicious bevvy. Chocolate Port adds body and thickness complemented by plum marmalade. Mint and citrus cut through, stopping the drink from becoming too heavy and complete the palate’s journey.
The following Talisman is equally tasty with more of a digestif feel – although without the usual body and saccharine character. Served in a gold bowl, monogrammed with the Adare seal, it holds lovely coffee undertones that work wonders with Remy Martin cognac and brownie sugar syrup to provide us with a sweet pick-me-up.
As we savour this rich cocktail, we watch Ariel take a heated stamp and press it into a block of ice, leaving behind the Adare Manor crest. Adding this to a glass alongside an orange wheel garnish and pre-made cocktail, we are introduced to our favourite drink of the evening – Lake of Dreams (Ron Zacapa Solera Rum, Antica Formula, Galliano, Marsala, Chocolate Bitters). The cocktail has been laid to rest in a barrel for seven months prior to serving, allowing the flavours to mature and develop and adding a smoothness to the hefty ABV that is unexpected. This aged rum cocktail is one that we would happily quaff every night of the week.
Sensing that we’re near defeat, Ariel promises to let us go after two more cocktails. Staving off the onset of gout, we p push forward, and are rewarded with a bird-shaped vessel holding Beau Geste – winner of a silver medal IBA Tokyo 2016. Entirely adorable and deliciously aromatic, our petit oiseau contains gin, juicy lychee liqueur, fresh citrus, rose syrup and frothy egg white.
Ariel bids farewell to us with Elegance, another gorgeously presented, vodka-based silver medallist with a grapefruit bitterness and fresh, lime hit, balanced with sweet syrupy peach and rounded orange bitters. It is a delightful end to an exceptionally decadent evening.
We drag our languishing bodies out of the comfortable bar stools, thank Ariel for his unrelenting hospitality and good-will, and head off to bed. The Tack Room is a den of unabashed excess and superior quality that befits Adare Manor and is one of the many jewels in its crown. As it is open to hotel guests only, there is a sense of community and conversation flows as freely as the drinks are poured. Whilst cocktails are not cheap (ranging from €15 to €19, around £13-17), they are as good as any we’ve had at London’s leading haunts and certainly worth a try.