Updated: Feb 26
69 Colebrooke Row, a.k.a. The Bar With No Name, has been on my list for a while now so I was excited when manager Dominik offered me a personal introduction to the cosy establishment and some of the fragrance-inspired cocktails. Founder Tony Conigliaro experiments with the crossover between cocktails and fragrances, creating unique infusions and inventive bitters in his lab.
For my first drink I asked for the Avignon, a simple but elegant mix of chamomile syrup, cognac, and Avignon incense smoke (one of my favourite smells). I sipped slowly as I thumbed through Tony’s book containing stories about the bar, the cocktails, and the clientele. I landed on the story of Avignon - a somber moment of introspection inside a church, marked by a wafts of incense and the remnants of the previous night’s brandy. I’m a sucker for a fragrance with a good backstory, so naturally I’m also a sucker for a cocktail with an interesting story behind it.
Next Dominik brought out Blush, a new cocktail that has yet to make its debut on the menu. A brighter beverage with more floral notes, this one tells a more feminine tale of perfume and playful pink cheeks.
Then the infusions made an appearance and that’s when I really started geeking out. Rose petal vodka, horseradish vodka, and something called Terroir, which is probably best described as vodka made from distillations of clay, flint, and lichen. What does Terroir taste like? Earth at its finest. It was like nothing I’d ever tasted before - akin to the earthy, mossy notes I love so much in fragrance. Like the gustatory equivalent of geosmin, the molecule commonly used in perfume to add an uncanny "rain" and "wet dirt" note to fragrances. Terroir tasted contemporary and modern and yet primal and ancient.
The rose petal-infused vodka and horseradish-infused vodka were delicious as well. Unlike some infusions, which are merely a suggestion of the thing they’re infused with, these vodkas were flavourful and really packed a punch. According to Dominik, the horseradish one is often used in bloody marys, while I imagine the rose petal vodka would be delicious in a cosmopolitan or just simply with some lemonade.
There are so many cocktails in the 69 Colebrooke Row book that I’d love to try. I hope someday to meet Tony and pick his brain about his fascinating process of experimentation with fragrance and cocktails. If you too find this cocktail/fragrance thing interesting, do yourself a favour and get your hands on the book even if you can’t make it over to the bar. (It’s available on the bar’s website here.) The stories are beautifully written, showing a distinct passion for fragrance within the context of cocktails, and the photographs and illustrations are stunning as well. When Dominik handed it to me, I found it impossible to put down. (I felt bad for the friends I was with because that was pretty much conversation over for the rest of the night - I was absorbed into the book.)
The fragrance I wore to 69 Colebrooke Row was Jazz Club from Maison Margiela’s Replica line. The warm and spicy scent, featuring notes of cigar tobacco, aged rum, worn leather, and flirtatious pink pepper complimented the dimly lit, seductive film-noiresque bar where you get the impression that you could easily disappear into the shadows of conversation.