1073 Cocktails and 238 Bars now listed
A new, intimate and exclusive space nestled deep within the labyrinthine Opium of London’s Chinatown.
Those wanting an authentic Far East experience can do no better than Chinatown. Glowing red lanterns bobbing overhead; the smells of sizzling meats and hot steam erupting from open doors; blackened ducks hanging temptingly in windows. But those in the real know will also be aware of a special little slice of oriental awesomeness hidden behind one particular Jade Door – a door that, amongst cocktail connoisseurs, is surely infamous.
It is behind this portal, up winding, rickety steps, that Opium lies – a den of mixology maestros, quirky curios and all the heady excitement of the orient lies. Encapsulating a Shanghai parlour of the 1930s, together with some awesome kitsch touches like huge waving golden cats, this is surely a favourite among those wanting a damn good cocktail. But now there is even more reason to make a beeline for this gorgeous space, because, much like a Chinese puzzle box that contains yet more puzzles, a little sister bar has bloomed within.
Peony has made her bed in Chinatown, and, since opening last December, is definitely flourishing. Also known as the “flower of riches and honour”, it is one of the national symbols, and no better name can have been attracted to such a lovely space. While Opium is an exuberant and wonderfully gaudy romp in cocktail creations, Peony brings something a little more refined. There are still the gorgeous touches – a yellow wall as bright as the robes of ancient emperors is decorated with the delicate details of bonsai, and a selection of beautiful teapots line the walls from which you can drink your libations. Our eyes were immediately caught by a lovely example – bamboo-handled, with pandas painted onto the china surface. We were smitten.
Entering Peony and you feel a sensual relaxation come over you – it’s like entering the stunningly decorated parlour of a concubine, with the low lighting, intoxicating incense and shimmering glassware. It’s inmate (booking highly recommend) and you’ll immediately feel a warmth from the chiming hostess Rasa and her skilled team. They have assembled a concise and precise menu guaranteed to please all palettes.
So, what about these drinks? Much like the ancient art of the tea ceremony, there is a focus on sharing, and so three different punches can be purchased in a teapot, either for two of four. Then there are five innovative cocktails to tempt you. So, in the spirit of all things oriental, we have chosen our top five, represented by the Wu Xing Chinese Elements…
Fire: Mexican In China
For something with a bit of a kick and to put a warmth in your belly, we recommend the Mexican In China. Herradura Tequila is combined with Xilli Liqueur and the sharpness from Fresh Grapefruit Juice, Lime and Maraschino Liqueur – the result is a libation sure to get your tastebuds hopping.
Water: The Emperor’s Garden
Water is essential in Chinese zen gardens for harmony, and in this delicious cocktail it is represented by Chinese Rice Wine. Add some No.3 Gin, Lemon, Cardamom and Ginger Syrup, and you have a refreshing and delicately complex drink that is all too easy to sip.
Wood: Hot Green Chivas
This sharing punch is so good it’s almost medicinal – served as a hot tea, it contains Chivas 12 and green tea as well as cloves, giving that woody warmth. Add some soothing sweet honey and the citrus zing of lemon and you have a concoction you can imagine an Empress might sip within the luxury of her Forbidden City.
Earth: Golden Sazerac
One of our favourite cocktails on the menu, not least because of the gorgeous presentation. Watch as a Rasa uses her alchemy skills to prepare this combination of El Dorado 12 Rum, Peychaud’s Bitters, Lemon Bitters, Goji Berry Syrup and that all important dash of Absinthe, and serves it up in a glass tumbler, covered with a piece of dried grass. Remove this and the fragrances of ginger and lemon grass envelop you – then sip on the nectar-hued cocktail in delight.
Metal: Lí Hé Weishìjì Sour
For something with a hint of sharpness, you can always trust a sour, and Peony is armed with its own delicious creation. Chivas 12 mixes with the piercing citrus swipe of lime & lemon Juice, and is tempered by pear, spice shrub, Egg White and Antica Bitters to create a cocktail that is as delectable from the first sip to the last.