Earlier this week I was invited along to an evening at Shaker & Company, the new cocktail bar devised by the guys who train many of the world’s top ‘mixologists’, which you’ll find in a rather ordinary row of retail outlets down towards the bottom of Hampstead Road near Warren St. If you’re a regular visitor to the site you’ll know that invitations to glitzy bars are the kind of thing that I normally decline, however the Shaker & Company offering is a bit different. Read on…
This new venue occupies a corner building which was clearly a pub in an earlier life – it retains the half-frosted etched windows that are a feature of many classic boozers, and the decor on the ground floor is quite rustic with a big, chunky bar extending along the long dimension of the space and bench seating running along the opposite side. However, any perceptions that you might have walked into a slightly upmarket pub are swept away by the sight of the literally hundreds of bottles of rare spirits lining the wall behind the bar and the interesting range of ingredients that sit on top of it – you won’t find a basket of fresh eggs, punnets of rasberries and bunches of mint on the counter of my local anyway! In keeping with its earthy vibe I’m glad to report that there isn’t a sniff of a Sloane Ranger about the place either – the punters here seem to be a well-heeled subset of the Camden crowd, which is a far more comfortable group of people to be around… unless you find the Chelsea set particularly entertaining.
The speciality at Shaker & Company is their range of uniquely formulated cocktails – we got to try a few (including one rather fiery concoction served straight out of a cute miniature cocktail shaker) but my favourite of the evening was definitely the ‘Potato Sack Sour’, a combination of (deep breath) Benedictine, Aperol, Pisco, lemon juice, Peach Bitters, egg white, and then a dash of Angostura and Peychaud’s Bitters to finish it off. Cocktails come in at a not-unreasonable £7.50 a piece, and to help you fortify yourself for the next round they also do an interesting range of ‘soul food’, taking their inspiration straight from the New Orleans scene. Take your pick from ‘hush puppies’, jambalaya, gumbo, sweet potato fries and lots of other Southern delicacies, priced at around a fiver or so for a generous portion of food.
To add to the atmosphere, Shaker & Company also have mid-week live music sessions – up until mid-January singer-songwriter Toby Connor will be entertaining customers from 8 until 10pm every Wednesday, with other artists to follow, and for visitors seeking a bit more intimacy for their evening there’s also a small space downstairs which is regularly re-decorated around a different theme. Switching from a Benedictine Monastery feel last month its now the BelvedereRED Room for Christmas (with Svarovski crystals and frosty Belvedere trees decorating the space). You can hire out this smaller room for groups of up to 30 people, and if you opt to put BelvedereRED special edition vodka on the drinks list (which has been launched to coincide with this year’s World Aids Day) 50% of the profits will go to Global Fund, which provides resources for HIV/AIDS work in Africa. Shaker & Company also have a BelvedereRED secret santa competition running at the moment – a £5 donation to the charity will put you in with a chance of winning a £249 Shaker Molecular Mixology course, a £149 Shaker Cocktail Masterclass, a £40 cocktail kit, a bottle of BelvedereRED or a RED iPod Nano.
I’m not really a lover of cocktail bars per se, but I’m minded to make an exception and recommend Shaker & Company as a destination for a unusual night out. You can find them at 119 Hampstead Road, NW1.