All eyes were on Salvatore Calabrese to see where he would go after Playboy. One year later, the Maestro is heading up an ambitious venture underneath The Holy Birds in Spitalfields with his two sons and a heady sixties vibe.
'We came up with a sixties concept because the speakeasy idea has been overdone and is also representative of quite a depressing era in our history when people drank to forget,' Salvatore Calabrese told Imbibe. 'The sixties, on the other hand, was fun so we wanted to inject some fun into our drinks list with cocktails that might have disappeared off drinks lists but that have stood the test of time and are worth bringing back.'
The Mule Bar is very much a family affair, according to Calabrese. All the design, concept and drinks were created with Calabrese’s sons Gerry and Jon. 'It was a lot of fun and a natural choice for me to want to work with them,' he said. 'At the end of the day, this bar is truly my home as it's a joint venture with my family.'
Fifty cocktails grace The Mule Bar’s drinks list – one for every year Calabrese has been in the industry. They had to be exceptional and they took time. 'I've written 13 books so in total it's all taken me quite a long time to get to this point!' the maestro said.
'It took quite a while as I wanted to research the drinks. We have some of our own variations on classic drinks but a lot of our drinks are as close to their original versions, there are drinks like Elvis Presley's favourite cocktail, The Blue Lagoon and JFK's tipple, the White Lady. There are lots of surprises, even the classic and authentic drinks have interesting twists, for example our Moscow Mule will come with a ginger sorbet.'
If you lived through the sixties the first time around or if you're experiencing it for the first time as long as everyone has a great time, Salvatore Calabrese
During the years it took Calabrese to pen his 13 books a lot has changed in the cocktail world. 'I'm proud and pleased that bartending is no longer a stop gap,' he said. 'It's actually now considered to be an art. Young bartenders love what they're doing and they're hungry to see and experiment. People used to only talk about chefs this way but now the barman is viewed as a creator who can take guests on a journey with different flavours.'
The Mule Bar is poised to attract a different clientele. 'We can't choose the crowd; the crowd should choose the pace. I want everyone who visits us to have an exceptional experience, it doesn't matter who you are or how much money you have, or if you're old or young, if you lived through the sixties the first time around or if you're experiencing it for the first time as long as everyone has a great time.'
Regular tastings and masterclasses will be hosted by the industry legend at the bar. Guests will also get the chance to sample cognacs from Calabrese’s own private collection.
To find out more about the bar, visit The Holy Birds.