The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Winnie the Pooh, Harry Potter – if you're the product of a certain era, there's little doubt that these books will have permeated your childhood in some way, and even if you didn't read them personally, you'll recognise their names.
Drinking is as much an olfactory (of the nose) experience as one that takes place on the palate. And, as you might know, smell and taste can fire up the brain's sense of memory, pulling vague events back into sharp focus in the picture-show of your mind and filling them with vivid colour.
Colour is exactly what you'll find in the second iteration of the Blind Pig's new menu, Long and Short: Great British Tails. The bar, a speakeasy tucked away above (rather than the more traditional 'below') Jason Atherton's excellent restaurant Social Eating House in Soho, has helped drive the trend arguably started by its neighbour Milk & Honey – that is: a secret entrance; forward-thinking, evocative cocktails; and a cozy, dark drinking den to enjoy them in.
Some drinks here are designed to place you right back in the pages of those childhood reads. The new take on the classic Harry Potter drink butterbeer, for example – named Best Bottle Butter Bitter (which takes on an even more pleasing resonance when said in a North Eastern English accent, as by the front-of-house staff member who served us) – is a complex and long cocktail, made with Monkey Shoulder whisky, Kamm & Sons aperitif, butterscotch, some citrus and, of course, some beer, too. The result is something like a buttery beer, but with all of its flavour points amplified. It's also something you can happily imagine yourself drinking in the books' universe.
The cocktails – in pictures
Some others are more 'inspired by' – such as the Very Hungry Caterpillar's 5-A-Day, which uses the famous children's book's blobs of colour more than its story as an inspiration, the glass coming filled with five differently coloured juice ice cubes and filled with a take on the margarita. At first, it's in danger of tasting like a bag of sweets, but its more boozy ingredients, led by Patrón Silver tequila, creep in towards the finish to lend it complexity and structure.
Off the flagship menu, there's a strong list of Blind Pig takes on classics, like the Less Than Perfect Manhattan, built around Lot 40 Canadian rye whisky and maple syrup, but with Cynar and Fernet adding real botanical oomph, and a touch of brine that makes it feel like a manhattan with a shade of dirty martini. It's a drink that looks and tastes serious, but you realise is a little more complex, and a little more playful, than you expected – just like the bar itself.
58 Poland Street, W1F 7NR; socialeatinghouse.com