Words by Simon Difford
Back in August 2013, Jamie Oliver and Jimmy Doherty turned up at our Beertails Cocktail Competition with a TV crew in tow. Andrea Montague won the competition which was screened on Channel 4's Jamie and Jimmy's Friday Night Feast. Anyway one thing led to another and Jamie asked me to work with his team on the design and menu for his new Jamie’s Italian Bar in London’s Angel Islington.
The bar was refitted before Christmas complete with a huge island bar which has broken up what formerly was a vast, slightly cold warehouse-like space. The new look bar has intimate booths, cosy corners and metres of bar to sit at.
The bar lies alongside Jamie's Italian Restaurant so food is as important as the drinks - as you'd expect of a Jamie Oliver owned establishment. The bar menu features Jamie's Italian favourites such as their meat and vegetable planks, crispy arancini (stuffed risotto rice balls), polenta chips, spinach & taleggio croquettes and crispy squid.
In Italy it's customary to stop off at a bar and enjoy a drink and nibbles on the way home from work and Italian bars typically give free antipasti with every drink. This Italian tradition has been embraced at Jamie's with generous amounts of free food offered to drinkers during 'Aperitivo Hour', Monday to Friday 5pm - 7pm. To compliment this I included the following Aperitivo Cocktails:
Spritz is popular in northern Italy, especially in Venice where it's pronounced "Spriss" and made with local white wines. The spritz is a classic Italian drink with origins dating back to the end of the 19th century when Venice was still part of the Austrian Empire. During this period, German soldiers drank the local wines of Veneto in taverns where they were billeted, often diluting them with water to achieve a similar alcohol content to the beer they were more accustomed to drinking. To celebrate this I included the following classic and contemporary Spritz on Jamie's menu:
Fruit Cup Spritz
Bellini Peach Spritz
Apple & Blackberry Spritz
Sicilian Orange Spritz
Raspberry Frangipane Spritz
Lychee & Elderflower Spritz
Parma Violet Spritz
Peach & Apricot Spritz
Sour Cherry Spritz
Spritz Al Bitter
Jamie's Italian restaurants have some well-established favourites, listed as Jamie's Italian Cocktails with drinks such as Jamie's Mojito amongst the chain's best-sellers. Check out the never understated Gennaro making his very own Sidecar on YouTube.
I believe every bar should list a selection of 'classics', well-known cocktails that consumers recognise and feel comfortable ordering. At Jamie's we've included these classic cocktails:
A bar should also list a selection of non-alcoholic cocktails. The following are all long established drinks at Jamie's. Homemade lemonade is always a winner and the Ginger Mojito is one of the simplest and tastiest 'mocktails' I've tried.
Finally, any self-respecting bar lying next to a restaurant should offer Dessert Cocktails for those feeling indulgent but too full for dessert. The Tiramisù Martini, Sorbetto and Affogato are my own recipes to fit the Italian theme.
Pop into Jamie's Italian Bar or follow the link on each cocktail for the recipe to make at home.