Cocktail master Salvatore Calabrese is the proprietor and visionary behind this marvellous Mayfair bar. At Salvatore you will find some of London’s most delicious cocktails as well as a “Liquid Museum” of fine liqueurs, some of which date to the late 18th century. I was desperate to try some of the master’s drinks for myself, so I headed down.
Part of the luxurious Playboy Club, Salvatore is a playground for high society ladies and gentlemen that is only minutes away from Buckingham Palace Gardens. The club itself is composed of four distinct sections. Salvatore (which is open to non-members) is located on the ground floor and is adjacent from Baroque, a club designed to evoke the romantic flamboyance of the Baroque period (think Handel and Caravaggio). With a stunning bar area and an array of seductive seating options, Salvatore screams luxury and comfort as soon as you step through the doors. The first thing I noticed after I settled into my cushioned armchair beside the grand piano was the huge portrait of The Rat Pack on the wall – an example of the easy stylishness of the bar.
The Ambience and Clientele
While I browsed the menu and chatted with the bartenders and bunny-tailed waitresses, snazzy Bossa Nova tunes filled the air, further adding to the cool vibe. Later on, the jazz music was replaced by a live Sinatra-esque crooner who sang soulfully but not pretentiously; soothing the cliques of smartly dressed patrons as they all proceeded in their respective conversations. After my genial bartender Maurizio took me on an exclusive tour of the entire Playboy Club, I was also lucky enough to chat with the dapper Salvatore himself, who graciously described his philosophy of “Liquid History.”
First up, I actually chose something that was not on the menu. Maurizio recommended his interpretation of the Penicillin, a whisky-based cocktail that includes orange rinds, lemon juice, honey, and drops of absinthe. Another memorable drink was the Sazerac, a whisky and absinthe combination that ultimately originates in 19th century New Orleans. Afterwards, Salvatore’s sweet and subtly tangy Limoncello had me singing his praises for the rest of the night. Most of the classic cocktails start at about £14.50, with some of the higher ones costing upwards of £20.
If you have no problem splurging the cash, you can savour cognacs and whiskies from Salvatore’s personal collection - such as the 1796 Napoleon Reserve. Naturally the cost of ‘tasting history’ is high. Still, who else can say that they savoured the same drink as Louis XVIII?
Everything from the masterfully crafted cocktails, to the high-spirited staff exceeded all expectations. Salvatore Calabrese truly is a sort of magician, creating concoctions that thoroughly mesmerise the palate. At the same time Salvatore captivates the eye with beautiful décor, transporting customers to foreign lands and bygone times. I wholeheartedly believe an evening here is worth every penny.