db Drinks: Waeska

db’s Lucy Shaw heads to Waeska bar at The Mandrake hotel for expertly mixed cocktails inspired by medicinal plants and magnificent mythical taxidermy.

The concept: Named after a hallucinogenic brew made from a South American wild plant used by shamans in spiritual healing ceremonies in the Amazon basin, Waeska bar at the shiny new Mandrake Hotel in Fitzrovia takes inspiration from medicinal plants from far-flung lands.

The bar is headed up by the immaculately attired, impeccably mannered Walter Pintus, who was rocking a natty beige velvet blazer on our visit. He hails from good stock, having worked at The Rivoli Bar at The Ritz, and, most recently, at The Connaught alongside the legendary Ago Perrone.

Keen to branch out with his own concept, Pintus blends the classicism and elegance nurtured at The Ritz and The Connaught with creativity and flair.

The Hedonist, featuring coconut-washed rum

The décor: Perched above the bar is a magnificent creature stuffed by artist Enrique Gomez de Molina. Called ‘Fable’, the mythical beast has the head of a gazelle, the legs of a kangaroo and the body of a peacock, its dazzling turquoise plumage perfectly preserved.

Taxidermy aside, the interiors are rather more tame. Opting for a soothing rather than wacky surrounding, Waeska is populated with mirror-topped tables, floral-print chairs and tasteful grey lather bar stools. A cabinet of curiosities in the far corner houses tribal trinkets.

The drinks: The menu is confidently curt – just 10 cocktails are on offer, running the gamut from the savoury Satyr, a refreshing apéritif blending Portobello Gin, saffron syrup, dry Sherry and citrus; to the decadent Hedonist, made with coconut-washed rum, orange curaçao and passion fruit sherbet.

Pintus makes all of his syrups, infusions and bitters in house and twists on classics like the Martini and Whisky Sour with exotic ingredients like bee pollen, galangal, sea buckthorn, pandan and wattleseed – a seed from the acacia tree eaten by aborigines.

Signature sips: The drinks are so well made at Waeska it’s hard to go wrong, but for those who love their sips sour, the peach hued Louisville Lip is worth a look. Blending Woodford Reserve with apricot cordial, citrus, Amaro Montenegro and pineapple bitters, it was the perfect balance of sour, bitter and sweet.

The Laphroaig-laced Hive

Another winner was the Hive. One to end the evening with, the smoky sip married Laphroaig, bee pollen, galangal, salted orange blossom and en rama fino.

Showing a deep understanding of flavours, while the peaty notes from the Laphroaig dominated the drink they in no way overpowered the rest of the ensemble, which was refined and complex yet infinitely approachable.

The food: The drinks are the star of the show here, but the bar offers a small selection of dishes to help mop up the alcohol including dangerously addictive salty squares of deep-fried Parmesan and tapioca.

Who to know: Seek out Walter on arrival. The soave Sardinian will talk you through the menu and suggest a sip based on your flavour preferences.

He’s currently working on a more ambitious incarnation of the menu that delves deeper into the world of botany and the medicinal power of plants.

Don’t leave without: Paying a visit to the loos in the hotel’s basement. On our visit a meditation session was taking place in the room next door. The monochrome loos look like something out of a David Lynch film, the surreal feel enhanced by a kooky soundtrack and cleverly placed mirrors.

Last word: While small in stature and discreet in nature, Waeska bar is a real find for cocktail lovers who like their drinks elegant and sophisticated but with a sense of fun and a whiff of the exotic.

Walter is one to watch, and while the place may fill up with artists and writers from LA at the weekends, during the week it’s one of the rare places in town where you can enjoy and expertly shaken cocktail without having to shout to be heard or elbow your way to the bar.

Waeska at The Mandrake Hotel, 20-21 Newman Street, London W1T 1PG; Tel: +44 (0)20 3146 7770

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