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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Salvatore Calabrese’s Blood ’N’ Sand

Bartending legend Salvatore Calabrese is one of the renowned industry gurus on the judging panel for the annual World Class Bartender of the Year awards.

Salvatore’s Bar is a sophisticated cocktail and piano bar in a quiet Mayfair side street. Dressed in a smart palette of grey tones, burnt orange and burnished copper, it features a bespoke hexagonal carpet and honeycomb shelving, used both behind the bar and to store a bank of ‘liquid history’ vintage liquors, some predating the French Revolution. Little wonder the venue won the Best Bar at the London Lifestyle Awards of 2012, the same year it saw history made, and consumed, when the then most expensive cocktail in the world was served up, at £5,500.

The Bartender

Salvatore Calabrese enjoys legendary status in the bar industry globally, and is credited more than any other individual with elevating the bartender’s art in London. He started out on his native Amalfi Coast with a summer bar job at the tender age of eleven and established his name at the bar in Dukes Hotel serving everyone who was anyone in 1980s London with his ‘liquid history’ cocktails and excellent ‘direct’ Martinis, at a time when lime and fresh mint were hard to source. He transferred to The Lanesborough’s Library Bar in 1994 where he earned his sobriquet ‘The Maestro’ and published his first cocktail book. He then opened his own venue at Fifty St James before moving to his current venue two-and-a-half years’ ago.

Salvatore focuses on satisfying the eyes, nose and tongue when crafting winning cocktails. He also explains how the development of a drink’s taste, from first sense to a lingering finish, can be likened to the journey of life, which needs to proceed in unconfused stages.

The Drink

Inspired by silver screen supremo Rudolf Valentino, suave Blood ’n’ Sand gains its depth from a number of sources. There’s the well balanced and flavoursome Cardhu, with heather and honey on the nose, luscious rich fruit notes and dry freshness. The vermouth blend is virtually a cocktail within a cocktail, in which Martini Rosso is augmented with a half dozen other ingredients, down to a touch of absinthe and Averna. It is then aged in an oak barrel for at least a month to allow the flavour to develop fully.

Blood ’n’ Sand is served in a vintage 1920s crystal coupe topped with an orange foam, and is an unrivalled cocktail experience, rather like sipping molten ambrosia through a marmalade mousse.

Images by Sarah Howe

The Technique

Barrel aged cocktail (makes 33 drinks)
Cardhu malt whisky • 120cl
Cherry Heering brandy • 90cl
Martini Rosso • 75cl
Amer Picon • 10cl
Dubonnet • 10cl
Cynar • 5cl
Place all the ingredients in an oak barrel and age for at least a month.

Orange foam (enough to top ten drinks)
Fresh orange juice • 120cl
Fresh egg white • 90cl
Grand Marnier • 6cl
Contains 21 grams of alcohol per serve

To build the finished drink first create the orange foam to ensure it can be chilled in a refrigerator before use. Pour all the ingredients into a gas canister charged with 2 Nitrogen Dioxide bulbs.

Pour 9cl of the aged cocktail into a mixing glass filled with ice and stir well. Strain into a chilled coupe glass. Top with a layer of foam and a strip of orange peel.

Blood ’n’ Sand is a great pre-dinner drink, particularly in winter for its warming qualities. Arrive early evening and relax as Salvatore, his bar team and the pianist set the tempo for a fine evening.

Folk don’t call you ‘The Maestro’ for nothing… Salvatore recently won a Lifetime Achievement Award for dedication to his craft, his industry and his customers. Rest assured, you are being served by the very best.

Salvatore’s Insider’s Guide to London

Place to stay
The Lanesborough

Place to eat
La Chapelle

Place to relax
China Tang at The Dorchester

Place to lounge
Connaught Bar

Place to dance
Hoxton Pony (owned by his son, Gerry)

Place to shop
Fortnum & Mason

Place to visit
The National Gallery