The definitive guide to the finest drinking experiences

The World Class 50: The Definitive Drinking Guide features 50 of the most innovative and talented bartenders from across the globe. Each bartender showcases the perfect location, the most inventive cocktail and the finest of ingredients and spirits that define the 'must have' fine drinking experience in their city.

How many you have discovered

Nabil Ben El Khattab’s Oriental Martini

Nabil Ben El Khattab represented Morocco at the World Class Bartender of the Year final, 2013

La Bodega is a well-established venue next to Casablanca’s historic central market, popular with locals and tourists alike. At first glance it could join Ceuta and Melilla as a third Spanish enclave in Morocco. Bedecked in posters of matadors and their glittering get-up, the ground floor looks like any other Iberian bar, albeit washed up on the shores of Africa, but the bullring backdrop belies hidden depths. Tucked away downstairs is a modern dance venue and cosy cocktail space. While the music upstairs is flamenco themed to accompany the tapas, cerveza and Rioja, a lively mix of Arab pop and international dance dominates below.

The Bartender

Nabil Ben El Khattab, 38, has been working at Bodega for seven years as bar manager. ‘I make a lot of my own syrups with spices, things like saffron, cardamom and turmeric,’ explains Nabil, ‘drinks made with them usually work really well with Moroccan dishes, but also give the sweetness that we like in our drinks here.’ He will usually build cocktails around one main spirit, flavour or ingredient and uses a broad range of Moroccan spices and seasonal fruits, his favourites being mint, grapefruit and red berries, which have an early harvest in the hot climate.

The Drink

The Oriental Martini takes its inspiration from a mango and coriander salad that Nabil ate one day. Noting the way the two main tastes worked particularly well together, he decided to experiment with a cocktail based on ripe mangoes and coriander leaf. He used freshly squeezed Moroccan oranges to focus the sweet, fruit notes of Ketel One, and the result is a great drink to have after a tagine, couscous dish, or in this case Maroc-slanted tapas.

The Technique

Ketel One • 50ml
Fresh mango purée • 30ml
Fresh orange juice • 10ml
Pernod • 1 dash
Orange bitters • 2 dashes
Three coriander leaves
Contains 23 grams of alcohol per serve

Muddle the coriander leaves and place all the ingredients in a shaker. Shake. Strain into a tall glass containing crushed ice.

Try some of the tapas upstairs then head down to find Nabil in his bar at the back, a secluded cocktail space behind the dance floor, which is perfect haunt for a night with friends en Afrique.

If you prefer a sweeter, fruit-based cocktail perhaps with a touch of spice, then Nabil is the man to seek out.

Images by Mehdi Lahmidi

Nabil’s Insider’s Guide to Casablanca

Place to stay
Hyatt Regency

Place to eat
Le Cabestan

Place to relax
Sky Bar

Place to lounge
La Suite

Place to Dance
Rose Bar

Place to shop

Place to visit
Hassan II Mosque

Place to see
the cityscape from Sky 28 bar in the Kenzi Tower Hotel