In the corner of a cosy bar on Old Street, I took my Mum and Auntie on a journey back to Edwardian London for an eccentric experience like no other. Antique collections, vintage books and Art Deco decor surrounded us as we sipped on exquisite drinks.
The Gibson Bar is one of East London’s most talked about additions. Created by two famous names in the bartender industry, The Gibson is set for a fantastic future. Marian Beke, previous head bartender at the Nightjar has joined forces with Rusty Červen, The Connaught Bar’s former senior mixologist, to celebrate a classic cocktail, aptly inspiring the name of the bar.
The Gibson cocktail, dating back to the 1900’s, is a variation on the classic martini, mixing in a dash of vermouth and replacing an olive (or two) with pickled onion, so its not surprising that the complimentary snack of choice is a jar of pickles. The bar therefore takes on a vintage appeal, with a long list of sensory cocktails.
Upon arrival on an early Saturday evening, we selected a corner stool table away from the classy hipsters and were pleasantly greeted by our hostess. A complimentary shot of something delicious was served in a cute heart shaped glass as we took our seats.
Among us we ordered a varied selection of cocktails to sample and share.
The most impressive of our first three choices had to be The Hummingbird, a flamboyant mix of Hennessy Fine, St Germain elderflower liqueur, orange liqueur, Gibson sparkling rose-hip wine and mandarin & lemon juice.
A tall glitter covered glass, sprinkled with candied aromatic flowers was carefully placed on the table, the magical liquid inside covered with a wooden disc topped with jam. An swaying peacock feather pierced the wood, it wouldn’t have surprised me if it burst into birdsong.
Served alongside it was a bowl of sweet jam with an ornate spoon, used to sweeten up the drink should it be too sour. Safe to say, the jam was used. It was an intense, fruity potion, devilishly strong for its pretty exterior.
A surprisingly refreshing cocktail was the Loch, Stock & Barrels, a husky concoction of ginger wine, fresh lemon, tobacco smoked honey and Glenmorganie original whiskey. Served in a stout wooden barrel, the drink was topped with a gigantic block of ice, covered in ash flavoured cacao butter and decorated with Scottish thistle and heather.
As a whiskey girl I was impressed by the flavour combination, it was light and crisp, a wonderful refreshment for a picnic or summers day. I would, however, have preferred not to not drink from a straw, the only way to access the drink… although the presentation was creative, the titanic sized ice cube did interrupt my drinking!
The least grand of the three was the Nether Say Nether. This was a strange mug of flavours, dominated by the Cacao Bean infused Amer Picon, a French aperitif that is rarely seen on cocktail menus. Mixed with Bols Genever gin, green walnut paste, guarana coffee and truffled balsamic jelly, the drink had a familiar yet tangy taste of coco.
Sitting atop the chocolate rimmed glass was a cinnamon dutch waffle, a welcomed snack for the drink. Although a confusion to the palette, I found that the more I sipped away, the more I liked it.
Feeling a little peckish we explored The Gibson’s range of nibbles, deciding on a bowl of mixed honey roasted nuts that came in a delightful heart shaped bowl. At this point we noticed that the bar had taken a quiet turn, with only a couple of people left in the opposing corner. However the bar’s cosy size and friendly atmosphere allows you to relax and enjoy despite its less busier occasions.
Before deciding upon our next round of concoctions, we sought professional advice from our lovely hostess. The delightful sounding Mylk, Egges & Chese was her first recommendation. Ysabel Regina (a blend of fine brandy and cognac), Acerola PX Harvey’s, peanut, almond & cheddar whey, egg custard tart, Beirao liqueur, served in a small wooden mug.
I adored this drink. It was warm yet cooling, creamy yet not too rich and presented in the cutest of forms with just a hint of sexy.
After stating my love for whiskey and interesting flavours, the West of Eastwood was chosen for my next drink. Sweet grass infused Jack Daniels was shaken with miracle chambord rice, limoncello, toasted fonio and spelt, lemon tagine spice and sweet ackee.
A warm spray of fejoa snow topped the liquid… it sounded posher than it looked. I enjoyed this cocktail, but I wouldn’t rave about it.
Our last sample of The Gibson’s creations was Red Beard. The ingredients of this drink did not sound appealing however it was a classic example of being so wrong, it must be right. Reyka vodka, raspberry ice wine, orchard fruit and red tea Kombucha, sounds lovely yes? Well then the list goes on… lime, yellow cherry tomato cordial, chocolate and chicory bitters and tobacco gum ketchup. Not so sure.
The cocktail was designed to represent a volcano, and I can see why. Served in a giant burnt log, the drink sat on a pile of charred herbs, perfectly resembling its inspiration. It was brilliant, there’s nothing quite like a Red Beard.
We left The Gibson a little merrier, with open eyes to the world of creative mixology. There are still many mind boggling drinks on the menu that are beckoning my curiosity… Minc’d Pye – a Johnnie Walker, elderflower and smoked chai tea potion mixed with minced meat cooked in dark beer… The Ponderosa, a crazy concoction of lamb jerky infused infused Knob Creek Rye, pickled mint sauce and lemon ketchup. I need to try them all.
Apart from the incredible list of descriptive cocktails, the setting and impeccable service is something to contend with, a non-pretentious vibe not often found in a place of creativity. I will just have to go back.