A Drinks List That’s Just Dandy


In something of a departure from our usual fare, this week we’re taking out the tipple in our Tipples pages, with the introduction of a cocktail menu with a difference that’s just launched at the Mayfair Townhouse…

For some, the idea of a mocktail is, simply, anathema, but as the world embraces alcohol-free, and drinks manufacturers are releasing products that really are becoming quite sophisticated, so bartenders and mixologists are in turn given the tools to flex their creative talents.

The latest of these comes from one of the leading lights when it comes to all things quaffable, the ebullient and colourful TV presenter and drinks expert, Olly Smith. Naturally, coinciding with the release of his new World Cocktail Atlas, Smith has collaborated with the Dandy Bar – formerly one of Conde Nast’s 6 Best Hotel Bars in London, no less – at the Mayfair Townhouse to design a cocktail menu, but this time alcohol-free, for the discerning and inquisitive drinker alike.

“What I love about the Mayfair Townhouse,” Olly tells us, “is its character, its eccentricity, its conviviality, it’s so conducive to enjoying a really good cocktail of an evening, so I was thrilled to have the chance to put together a new list of non-alcoholic drinks with them…” The range of eight drinks has been inspired by moments and memories in Olly’s life, “It’s been a real process for me,” he continues, “each one of them tells a story; the Blackberry Buzz tells of my childhood with my grandmother in the borders of Scotland, picking piles of blackberries together, and the Watermelon Quencher is from enjoying refreshing watermelon drinks with my kids on the beach in Greece…”

Having a range of alcohol-free distillations at his disposal has also been a real source of inspiration, to elevate these drinks not just from being a token spritz or juice-based concoction, but with a quality base spirit. “The Sumatran Sunrise, for example, comes from my time in Indonesia and I was inspired by flavours of ginger and clove – but it also features the botanical brilliance of Botivo,” Olly enthuses, “perhaps the most delicious non-alcoholic drink I’ve come across. It has a beautiful zestiness that really compliments this drink.”

But, as any mixologist will tell you, it’s all very well having a palette of ingredients at your disposal, but they’re nothing if they’re not executed well. And it’s the execution of these cocktails that elevates these into being far more than just some alcohol-free afterthought. The English Garden Spritz, Olly’s homage to summer, takes Seedlip Garden 108, elderflower cordial, Fever Tree tonic and a squeeze of lime, to produce a refreshing alternative to a G&T. The Rooibos Tea Punch, with peach juice complementing Rooibos tea, could sit nicely on a catamaran on the Caribbean – and does it need any rum? Not a bit of it.

Perhaps the stand-out, however, that really does stand on its own, has to be the aforementioned Sumatran Sunrise. There’s a subtle bitterness delivered from the Botivo, with apple juice and punctuated with ginger and clove, topped with an egg white or aquafaba foam; it’s about turning something previously rather uninspiring into a sophisticated serve which, as Olly suggests, “if you’re after a booze-free sharpener with grown-up complexity, this is your drink.”

It’s saying something that a bar can produce a new cocktail list that aren’t simply alternatives to their alcohol-based counterparts, but that could be ordered by choice in their own right – and, you never know, you might even be none the wiser.

Olly Smith’s new non-alcoholic cocktail menu is available now at The Dandy Bar at The Mayfair Townhouse, 27-41 Half Moon St, London. Olly’s ‘World Cocktail Atlas’ is available in all good bookshops.