With just an inconspicuous plaque on the wall to direct you, meander through Bedroom Bar and up a narrow, blackened stairwell where you will uncover Nola. I propped myself up at their intimate bar for a look-see into the art behind some of the most talked about cocktails in London...
Once you've ascended the stairs, you'll find yourself in a New Orleans styled saloon bar with authentic throwbacks to this era adorning the room. Rich, varnished woods, quilted dark green leather booths and glowing candles all add to the Southern charm of this space. The name of this Shoreditch joint quite literally fuses New Orleans and Louisiana culture to create a timeless capsule of Jazz Age elegance and vintage allure. Palm leaved plants and simplistic design give Nola an authentic ambience that immediately transports you back to the bygone era of New Orleans. The humble sized room is dashed by the scent of foreign spirits with bartenders shaking, stirring and mixing to a soundtrack of old school, smooth jazz trills.
It's all in the name of Sazerac. As the only venue outside of North America to clutch the 'Seal Of The Sazerac' award, you know you can expect nothing but exquisite blends, custom ingredients and tailored mixology from those behind the Nola bar. Take a moment (or several minutes) to digest the intricate menu of detailed descriptions and pages of concoctions. First up, I was convinced by the signature tipple King Creole, so named after the 1958 movie set where Elvis Presley with his peanut butter and banana sandwich created a revolution. Not one for any shy darlings or dapper chaps out there - this cocktail is a bold mix of Peanut Butter fat-washed Makers Mark bourbon stirred down with Crème de Banane and Creole bitters (with some scattered monkey nuts thrown in). Don't be fooled, these three ingredients pack a powerful punch. King Creole will definitely leave you all shook up ... (had to be done).
Next was a straight up serving of Big Easy flavour bringing the cocktail craft of current New Orleans bartenders to London. The Copa De Muerto - Beachbum Berry ignites the Modern developments in Deep Southern mixology. Laced with heavy tastes and lightened with fruits, you'll find El Dorado 5yo, Tepache and Bittermens New Orleans coffee liqueur shaken with pineapple and lemon juice with cinnamon syrup as the final, subtle sweetening note. Less harsh on the throat and more smooth on supping is what this little number is all about.
Without going through the low-down of all the drinks we sampled, one thing is obvious - Nola knows liquor, and boy do they do it well. Libations old and new, from State-side to Shoreditch and from bitter to sweet, the drinks on offer at this haunt are yet to be matched.
The Atmosphere & Clientele
One word that doesn't go a miss from this low-lit drinking den is atmospheric. Nola oozes this; from the background of Jazz, Blues and Rock'n'Roll music to the drinks you're supping on. Everything is dashed with vintage charm and elegance, and that includes the bar staff. You'll find boys in bracers and 'Dixie Queens' in waist coats with Nola aprons on as they take to the bar stage. Having experienced Nola in its mid-week light on a fine Wednesday evening, I can preach that this joint will be heaving come the weekend, so if you can bag a spot, get in there quick - tables are on a 2 hour rotation here so the demand for New Orleans liquids is thirsty.
You'll find all creatures great and small here; cocktail connoisseurs among couples, groups of mates or gals in for a chin-wag. Nola retains the beauty of it's seclusion - anyone wandering up the stairs knows their journey will result in some serious liquor laced satisfaction. No strays find themselves here.
Proud purveyors of New Orleans history and Louisiana style, Nola have an authentic affiliation with Deep Southern culture which is rare to find this side of the Atlantic. Not designed for the masses, but comfortably cosy for those exploring the rich cocktail craft of the Jazz age to the Modern day, this Shoreditch nook is nifty by name and smooth by nature.