Unlike houses, happiness and fabric softener, whisky is actually seeing a boom amongst Millennials. It would seem that some combination of quality appreciation and a few too many teary nights on the gin has got us putting down the London dry and picking up the Scotch. Doing away with the tartan-smothered private members clubs, there’s a new breed of bar welcoming in Scotch-laced cocktails, picklebacks and whisky rivers to meet this newfound taste for the water of life. The latest addition to the scene is Iron Stag, a bold basment bar just off Hoxton Square. While the decor still retains traces of the members lounge, tropicals have replaced tartans on the leather sofas, and hip hop fills in the background noise.
The team behind the bar reads like a who’s-who of the London drinking and dining scene’s bright young things. Attached by a stairwell to Adam Handling’s The Frog Hoxton, the menu has been put together by Matt ‘The Talented Mr Fox’ Whiley and Rich ‘The Cocktail Guy’ Woods. The duo have curated a drinks list that puts accessibility above prestige, starting with their draft whisky soda. The MIZAWHAAAAAT (£9.50) comes fresh from the tap, mixing Monkey Shoulder and pineapple soda into a refreshing and surprisingly creamy drink that proffers coconut undertones and soft fruity finish. It comes in a highball, but I don’t think sinking a few pints is out of the realm of possibility.
But it’s their more advanced concoctions that really shine a light on where the future of whisky cocktails is headed. Take, for instance, the Bomba De Plantano. Pre-mixed, bottled and served over ice, what you’ve got here is a combination of Jack Daniels Rye, sherry, banana and salted lemon tonic. Mixed by anyone but Whiley and Woods it would taste like the shitmix you made at fifteen from the liquor you knew your parents wouldn’t miss, but in their hands it’s an adventurous little thing full of brininess and banana sweetness. The Supersoaker (£9.5) offers something a little more pedestrian but nonetheless interesting as watermelon, Woodford Reserve, Vermouth and Campari sugar are blended into a heady concoction that is as clean and fresh as it is potent.
There’s bar snacks as well, and mighty impressive ones at that, cooked up in the Frog kitchen and designed to complement the drinks menu. We all but inhale the cheese doughnuts (£5), whose ooey-gooey centre will end up in your lap/hair/shoe if you don’t angle your face right. There’s also a range of souped-up sliders or ‘Fat Bastard Sandwiches’ (£4.50 each), that pack a lot more punch than their size would suggest. The courgette flower fritter comes with a slick of goats cheese, honey and whack of thyme, all sandwiched together inside a soft brioche bun. And the buttermilk chicken and kimchi mayonnaise offering my friend orders barely has time to introduce itself before its demolition.
The DesignMyNight Digest
Flying the flag for the future of the scotch and soda, Iron Stag offers a cool and cleverly crafted range of cocktails that could turn even the most ardent whisky dismissers. It’s certainly got knowledge and wisdom when it comes to the whiskies it sells, but it’s also got innovation on its side, which is what makes it all the more attractive.