I often get asked where London’s best cocktails can be found, a question I am trying to become more qualified to answer. The cocktail craze seems to be growing rapidly and to meet demand more and more fascinating and fabulous bars are opening. I have been desperate to try Purl Cocktail Bar for a while and after hearing rumours of its mysterious and magical drinks, I knew it could be a contender for my list of London’s top bars.
Going for the prohibition theme, like many of the exciting bars, Purl is underground, a similarly discreet entrance to that of London Cocktail Club and Bramble. 1920’s music ripples through the space and dainty lights illuminate a cosy and atmospheric venue. The bar is surprisingly small, I can imagine it is a real challenge to serve all the rowdy visitors with such a petite serving station. Medicinal vintage glass containers hold homemade concoctions and brews, fruit soaked in liquor and other bizarre creations. I was particularly fascinated by the Absinthe water dripper, a retro contraption which precisely trickles cooled water into a glass of deadly green spirit.
The bar was opened in 2010 by a group of enthusiasts, including London’s Bartender of the Year 2011, Tristan Stephenson. They were eager to bring classics back to London’s drinking scene whilst also offering wildly creative new recipes. More than any other cocktails I’ve tried the flavours and aromas are really taken into consideration at Purl, the culinary expertise involved in making each drink is quite unbelievable. We tried a variety of the favourites from the beautiful crumpled menu.
Our bartender was an exceptional mixologist, producing stunning drinks with real theatricality. I was delighted to have the whole place to ourselves and all the attention of the bar staff who constantly brought out new and intriguing equipment and ingredients in order to efficiently create our desired drinks. It was immediately obvious that everyone at Purl has a real passion and curiousity for experimental mixology.
My favourite drink was one of the signature concoctions, Cerez Joker, £12 (Dalmore 15, Haymans sloe gin, fresh lemon, ginger bitters, detonated lemon twist). This is a dainty, sweet and refreshing drink with a creamy softness thanks to the addition of egg white. The cocktail is served in an explosion of lemon mist, a dazzling display. The Mr Hyde’s No.2, £12 is the real showstopper on the menu and apparently the drink that receives the most ‘wows’. A unique combination of Ron Zacapa 23, Purl’s lemonade (all natural), cola syrup, chocolate bitters, PX smoked and wax sealed with fog. Arriving in a puff of smoke this drink is very strong and one for cocktail connoisseurs, with a deep smoky taste and a saccharine hint from the cola flavour.
Our second round was equally delicious. We tried Thumbs Up, £11 made from Beefeater, green chartreuse, Aperol, maraschino and lime with smoked chocolate soil and prosciutto. This drink arrived with a delicate display of chocolate crumbs and thin ham and had a warm, comforting and fruity flavour; the pairing worked surprisingly well. Our last drink, a recommendation from the enthusiastic barman was the Ketel One Nitrizzle, £10 – a very drinkable and light, long cocktail made with Ketel One swizzled with triple second, white tea, mandarin bitters, lemon and Nitro smashed fruit. I thought the Nitrogen freezed fruit was a particularly innovative and artistic touch.
Apparently their other outlet, The Whistling Shop Bar is even more scientific and crazy with its cocktails creations… I’m hoping to try it soon and report back.
If you like your cocktails served with a deal of hocus pocus, magic and mastery, Purl is the place for you.
Purl is open from 5pm until 11.30pm Monday to Thursday and to 12am on Friday and Saturday. Visit the website here.