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.

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Brian Silva’s Negroni Finis

Nominated by Spike Merchant, host of the World Class Bartender of the Year competition

‘There is a buzz about Balthazar that is unmistakable,’ says World Class Bartender Of The Year host Spike Marchant, ‘the décor, ambience, the drinks and food and the brisk professionalism of the staff give an incredible energy’. The younger sister of the longstanding NYC exemplar, the latest doyenne of London’s restaurant scene opened in February this year. Though sixteen years junior it could be a twin, with the upmarket/Downtown vibe, its flair and fare, a cookie-cut of Keith McNally’s original. Well, why tamper with such a winning formula? It’s as if a smart Parisian brasserie sailed across the Atlantic, picking up more than a whiff of ocean liner classiness, and has now made the return trip across the Pond. Smart, yet relaxed; established, but with a buzz; this is restaurant as theatre.

The Bartender

Head bartender Brian Silva has been a quiet legend of the London bar scene for a long time, long enough not to ask perhaps. Though we do. Having cut his teeth amid the aperitivos of the Colonnade Hotel in his hometown of Boston, Massachusetts, he’s been in London just shy of a quarter century. Since landing his first job in the capital, promising, ‘to slice the lemons so sharp you’ll cut your tongue’, he’s run the bar at Home House, the Connaught hotel and Rules restaurant. Brian sees mixing drinks as more of a craft than science, which should focus on keeping things balanced and bringing out the big flavor of the main ingredient, while his presentation avoids melodramatic garnishes that just get in the way.

The Drink

Spike nominated Brian’s Negroni Finis, his latest adaption of the classic Negroni (invented in 1919 when an Italian aristo wanted to galvanise his then favourite cocktail, the Americano). Brian’s Tanqueray No.Ten based concoction is simple in it’s construction and presentation, but a marvel of the conjurer’s art in conceit: taking a whole load of delicious, yet powerful flavours, adding half a passionfruit; and producing the flavour and freshness of a pink grapefruit pressé. With a kick.

The Technique

Tanqueray No.Ten • 50ml
Campari • 25ml
Cinzano Orancio • 15ml
Byrrh • 10ml
½ a passionfruit
Contains 27 grams of alcohol per serve

Squeeze the passionfruit over a beaker of ice, add the Tanqueray, then add the other liquors by measure. Shake. Double strain into a tumbler of fresh ice & garnish with flicks of orange peel.

Given its fresh, innocuous nature, it is perfect for brunch or a pre-dinner pick-me-up. Brian thinks the best seats in the house booths 15 or 16, or tables 24 or 34. Then again, if you just want to soak up the theatre of the place sit centrestage at the bar, which is itself at the heart of London’s Theatreland.

Brian’s Insider’s Guide to London

Place to stay

Place to eat
Opera Tavern

Place to relax
The Mall Tavern in Kensington

Place to lounge
Rules Bar on Maiden Lane, Covent Garden

Place to shop

Place to visit
Borough Market

Images by Tim Bishop and Alexandra Pemberton