On Friday, I was invited to the brand new Park Plaza Westminster Bridge hotel for a cocktail masterclass with mixologist Aristotelis Papadopoulos.
Aristotelis beat off stiff competition from around the world (6,000 bartenders from 24 countries) to become 2009 World Class Bartender of the Year.
The hotel’s general manager spotted Aristotelis in a newspaper and decided they just had to have him create a bespoke cocktail list for the hotel bar, Primo.
Passing the Houses of Parliament, we saw the huge building looming in the distance. This is a hotel of vast proportions: 1,000 bedrooms, two huge revolving doors at the entrance, multi-coloured light installations for walls, and not one but three receptions on the first floor.
We pitched up on stools at the bar and shook hands with a tired-looking Aristotelis. He’d flown in from Greece for just a week to set up the bar and train the bartenders; the next day he was headed off to host the heats of the 2010 World Class Bartender of the Year awards in Korea.
Still, he pushed on through and entertained us with a crash-course in some of his unique concoctions.
Here is a man who likes grapes – they seemed to feature in more than half of his cocktails, either within them or on top as a garnish. When he wasn’t adding grapes to his drinks, he was busy tossing them in the air and trying to catch them on the end of a toothpick suspended in his mouth!
We worked our way through a Vita Vini (vodka, red seedless grapes, lychee juice, Prosecco and lemon juice), Ginger Grape Daiquiri (Havana rum, lime juice, fresh ginger and white grapes) and my personal favourite Vodka CrÃ¨me Brulee (vanilla-flavoured vodka, Frangelico, Grand Marnier and cream).
Looking around, I was surprised to see the bar was already quite full – despite having just opened – with a mix of hotel guests, businessmen and even Boris Johnson (although he slipped on his bike helmet and snuck off before I got a chance to nab him for a photo).
After we’d drunk our way through Aristoteli’s entire list and made Pinday the PR promise to invite us back when the hotel restaurant opens (watch this space), we wobbled off into the night a tad tipsy. What a great start to the weekend.
If you ever swing by, do let us know which one of the cocktails is your fave.