The 16-cover bar and tea shop, which officially launched last week, offers single-origin, organic teas hand-picked from Teatulia’s tea garden in Bangladesh. These form the basis of Gonzato’s seven-strong cocktail menu, which uses the teas to create low-abv twists on classic cocktails.
‘They’re easy-to-drink cocktails with a strong sustainability focus,’ Gonzato told Imbibe. ‘There’s a small amount of spirit in each, but the real protagonist is the tea.’
Gonzato, who joins the bar team at Claridge's this week, said he’d immersed himself in learning about the various teas, and the best methods and temperatures to extract their flavours. Each cocktail uses a different tea, some from hot and cold brews, and some in syrup format.
‘For the Builder's Bourbon – a twist on a Mint Julep – I made a grape berry tea syrup with black tea, sugar, blackberry and grape juice,’ Gonzato said. ‘The black tea is very rich and heavy, and the tannins match perfectly with the spice from the Maker’s Mark bourbon.
‘Then we have more refreshing drinks, like the Lemongrass Mojito, which uses lemongrass tea and a cordial made from discarded mint stems – I’ve tried not to waste anything to respect the idea of the brand.’
Gonzato’s Ginger Snap, his take on an Amaretto Sour, incorporates a ginger tea, which is cold-brewed overnight with fresh cardamom and a touch of wasabi to retain its delicate flavour. ‘These flavours work really well together, if you think of Japanese cuisine,’ Gonzato explained. ‘The wasabi adds a green grassiness and funkiness.’
The cocktail can be made with egg white or aquafaba, for a vegan version, and the Amaretto de Saronno can be replaced with fresh grape juice for a non-alcoholic cocktail.
The cocktails clock in at around 20% abv, although there are non-alcoholic versions of a number of them. Gonzato has already developed 30 cocktails for Teatulia, which will be rolled out over the coming year, with a signature Martini based on Earl Grey gin for the warmer months.
To keep out the chills over winter, he has created a Chai-Spiced Hot Toddy that is served with butter-salted caramel candy floss.
‘Butter can be difficult to manage [in cocktails], so I thought about how we could play around with this concept and came up with this idea,’ he explained. ‘You can eat the candy floss on its own or dissolve it in the drink and it makes it really rich and the saltiness really picks up the flavours of all the spices.’
The venue on Neal Street has been designed by Russell Sage Studios, which is also responsible for the interiors of Dishoom and Tamarind Kitchen, and features a curved black terrazzo-topped bar, extensive book shelves and art-deco detailing.
Its founders Ahsan Akbar and K Anis Ahmed, who also run the Dhaka Lit Fest, have included a ‘living bookshelf’, which will be a monthly selection of reads curated by writers, actors, musicians and filmmakers. The first bookshelf will be curated by actress Tilda Swinton, who coined the ‘living bookcase’ term.
Photography by Louise Long