The Bucket List at The Zetter Clerkenwell


Alice Payne enjoys an evening of escapism travelling around the globe via The Zetter Clerkenwell’s new cocktail menu…

Stepping through the Georgian façade of The Zetter Clerkenwell on a cold winter’s evening feels like passing into another world – one that serves up the magic of Dickens with the intimacy of a speakeasy and the sophistication of one of London’s best bars.

Providing an oasis in the heart of the City, The Zetter Clerkenwell inhabits a restored townhouse on a quiet, cobbled square behind Clerkenwell Road, with 13 individually-styled bedrooms and an inviting parlour and bar.

An evening here feels like stumbling upon a decadent party in someone’s stylish but quirky home, where the drinks are exceptional and frequent, the sofas enticing and the live music perfectly pitched.

This combination of bohemia and bonhomie is down to Great Aunt Wilhelmina – the fictional owner of the house, whose unconventional life and extensive travels explain the curiosities dotted around the parlour. To give a sense of the surroundings, I’m sitting under a cubism-inspired ceiling, looking at pointillist-painted walls, tricoloured velvet curtains, patchwork-quilted armchairs, numerous vases, lampshades and chandeliers, plants growing out of teapots and, in the corner beside a vigorous fire, a taxidermied cat whose outfit changes seasonally (it’s currently in a dress).

The keepsakes of Wilhelmina’s travels feel like portals across the world, and the Zetter has taken this escapism further with the launch of its new cocktail menu – the Bucket List – which is why I’m here.

Each of its 16 cocktails is inspired by a destination across the globe – from Peru to Morocco, Greece and Brazil. The menu is the culmination of six months’ conception and perfection, with the cocktails being crafted diligently in the lab downstairs with test tubes and vials and complicated distillations (all the syrups are homemade).

Every tipple is superb and delivers a metaphorical journey but also a physical one as unusual flavours shimmy across the palate. Lima, an aromatic concoction inspired by Egypt, starts smoothly before gathering pace as flavours of lime flower, tequila, mezcal and vetiver come to the fore.

The Curry Leaf Sour, taking inspiration from India, delivers an intense rush of flavour in a moreish melange of tart curry leaf gin, saccharine apricot, vetiver and garam masala gomme, as sweet and sour flavours vie for dominance.

Moving further east, the Mango Sticky Rice blends flavours from Thailand, with toasted coconut vodka, verjus, mango wine and genmaicha syrup (toasted brown rice mixed with green tea). It’s clean, subtle and slightly fizzy with a gentle sweetness that emerges part-way through.

The Turkish Tabanka, infused with gunpowder, is served with a bang, while Mexico’s creamy golden Corn on the Cob arrives decked in sweetcorn, and Italy’s Tartufo somehow makes a white truffle oil and porcini mushroom beverage enjoyable.

My own favourite was For Goodness Sake – a lilac-hued blend of sweet potato, coconut yogurt rum, sochu, sake, ube gomme and miso cream designed to transport imbibers to Japan. Sweet and frothy, I savoured it like a rich dessert at the end of this innovative liquid menu.

Rather than a gimmick, an evening sampling the Bucket List feels like a mini adventure enhanced by layers of creativity that extend beyond the superb cocktails. The menu, for instance, resembles a piece of art and is designed as a series of vintage travel posters capturing the essence of each country. In the gloom of winter, as our waiter takes our order by asking conspiratorially “and where will you travel?”, the magical world of Wilhelmina’s home delivers a delicious corner of escapism.

The ‘Bucket List’ is available now at The Zetter Clerkenwell. For more details, including opening times and the full menu, please visit