Speakeasy -type bars like PDT in New York, Varnish in Los Angeles and The Aviary in Chicago have put a spotlight on using real skill and palettes in the creation of cocktails. These prohibition throwbacks have put the art back into ‘cocktailing’ and its rise is likely due to the new affinity of caring how things taste, and a new found respect for craftsmanship. In London, you will find such a place hidden amongst dim sun and hanging ducks: ECC Chinatown.
The Experimental Cocktail Club (ECC) Chinatown cocktail bar opened late in 2010 and brings with it a fresh styling of Parisian sensitivity. ECC is another venture from Romée de Goriainoff, Olivier Bon and Pierre-Charles Cros, owners of the French award-winning cocktail bars – Experimental Cocktail Club , Prescription & Curio Parlour and showcases fine-tuned and sophisticated cocktails.
This gastronomic approach to cocktailing does have its connoisseurs and I found one at the end of the bar at ECC. Ever so friendly, he offered the seats next to him, prime real estate in a packed bar—calling ECC “his place.” As we talked, I learned that he was a restaurateur with distinguished tastes; he hit the nail on the head with his description of what makes the cocktail techniques at ECC special. True ‘alchemy’ as he termed it, is a far cry from what I dared to call “mixology” in our discussion. I asked him to explain and he said:
The difference between alchemy and mixology is that mixology involves hiding alcohol behind sweet, sour, and ice..[for example]… a martini, a daiquiri… it doesn’t taste like alcohol [so] it’s not anything but mixology. Alchemy, real alchemy, [consists of] a cocktail that has so many different elements; and without thinking, you take the first sip and it feels smooth, easy, nice and well balanced. But then you take time, and like a great wine that has good tannin, it has longevity, and you will feel the high notes of citrus, low notes of dry, and the different alcohols –balancing those kinds of drinks is alchemy. Taking something ‘unprecious’ and making it precious.
As my new friend so eloquently noted, the drinks at ECC do have notes on a scale and they are excellent . Just make your way up to Gerrard Street off of Wardour and once you hit the ‘non- descript’ door next to dim sum, you’re at the right place. Try the Winnie the Pooh for rye tastes and a Stockholm Syndrome for vodka drinkers.
ECC Chinatown 13A Gerard Street W1D 5PS Reservations recommended (via email only) firstname.lastname@example.org