New drink lists seem to come (literally) with every season. The Neat Pour inbox is a wasteland of press releases touting new menus. However, when an institution like the American Bar at The Savoy unveils a new list–well, that is newsworthy! On Tuesday (3.03), the storied London Bar released their newest opus titled, ’The Savoy Songbook.’
For readers who have not visited The Savoy, some context is in order. Tucked into a corner of the establishment’s backbar are crystal plates, trophies of various awards the bar has won. These shelves looks like a china cabinet; there are literally enough plates to host a dinner party. Accordingly, the menus are no ordinary one-sheeters.
The drinks lists at the American Bar are more like small books, hard covered, handsomely bound, printed on a heavy stock, and featuring immaculate design.
The newest offering, inspired by the establishment’s musical connections, is the second from Head Bartender Maxim Schulte in collaboration with Director Of Bars Declan McGurk and The Savoy team.
Schulte succeeded Erik Lorincz at the helm last year. The iconic destination’s list of past bartenders is equally impressive including legends like Ada Coleman, inventor of the Hanky Panky; Harry Craddock, author of the milestone, Savoy Cocktail Book; and Peter Dorelli early trailblazer of the Cocktail Renaissance.
Schulte’s inaugural list in the driver’s seat last year was inspired by the photography of Terry O’Neill. In an autumn 2019 interview with Neat Pour, the Head Bartender explained that much of the work on the menu and the bar was underway long before his ascension to the position.
“The team and room have not changed. When I began, my first step was to immerse myself in finishing the new list,” he recalled.
The followup list, the brand new ’The Savoy Songbook’ menu sees Schulte spread his wings a little more, making use of lots of cordials, liqueurs, and unusual modifiers.
However, there are some constants. Schulte & co. once again looked to the space and clientele for inspiration. In this case, their quest led them to the bar’s long relationship with music.
A piano, played for the last 15 years by Jon Nickoll, provides a focal point at the center of the room. For over a century, the bar has provided refuge for musical greats. Legend has it that Frank Sinatra, a regular, would stage impromptu shows at the venue.
“The American Bar is as much a piano bar as it is a cocktail bar. The aim of this menu and album is to celebrate the unique atmosphere of the American Bar, something our wonderfully talented musicians are integral to helping create,” added McGurk.
Sinatra songs provide the inspiration for three libations (Dreamer, Playing In The Stars, Something Stupid) on the list. Classics from Fred Astaire (‘The Way You Look Tonight’) to David Bowie (‘Space Oddity’) provide the spark for the other 18 new libations.
Specifically, the staff sat down with the venue’s resident musicians to pick a key lyric from each song That lyric, in turn, provided the name and theme of the cocktails.
For example, Jay-Z and Beyoncé’s duet ‘Empire State of Mind’ was the creative catalyst for the ‘Concrete Jungle’ (Woodford Reserve, Calvados, 30&40 Aperitif De Normandie, red wine & rooibos reduction, lemon.) Prince’s classic, ‘Purple Rain,’ begat ‘Electric Lover’ (Hendrick’s, quince liqueur, mint, lemon, glitter!, cinnamon syrup, Angostura Bitters, almond essence, process.)
’The Savoy Songbook’ wouldn’t be complete without actual song. So, Nickoll record an album comprised of the tunes behind the drinks. You can pick it up at The Savoy. If you neither live in London nor have a visit planned in the near future, don’t despair! You can also download the playlist on Spotify.
Of course, the new menu is also a beautiful book unto itself. The art deco design is enough to drive a teetotaler off the wagon (don’t worry, there’s a pretty impressive no-proof section). So, we decided to upload the tome for all to peruse.