The launch of Sovereign Loss in Brixton this week marks Brixton Road/Coldharbour Lane as a major cocktail hub in the South now, joining stars like the Shrub and Shutter and Three Eight Four (Click HERE for review!). With the brand ambassadors of Aperol and Whitley Neill Gin running the show, Sovereign Loss is bound to be a South London star. As a major fan of Chris Dennis (of Trailer Happiness fame), having him behind the bar means this was a launch the Hoodooist would certainly not miss.
Pressing the buzzer at the Trade Entrance door just beside the Prince of Wales, one climbs up the stairs, past a smoking terrace, to a candlelit, intimate space that could be best described as Cuban Art Deco. Initially quite relaxed, the lights get darker and music louder as the night goes on – and on it goes – with the 24 hour license, the weekend sees the bar open till 5AM, on Sundays till last man standing! But not being a club, this exactly where the Hoodooist wants to find himself instead of some riotous oonce-oonce shindig at 3AM – just chilling with an El Presidente.
The cocktail list is short, but impressive, and matching the Art Deco surrounds, with a good balance between short and long drinks (but rather heavy on the orange). Let’s begin with the most impressive.
The Canopy, now this was a surprise. The Hoodooist so rarely enjoys a long drink, but heavens, this is incredible. And so simple! Whitley Neill gin, orange sherbert, Curacao, lemon and soda. Being a smooth, subtle gin, Whitley Neill is excellent with its citrus for a cocktail like the Canopy. It beings with a burst of the orange sherbert, such an excellent flavour, moving to a short expression of the gin, and settling on the Curacao. A bit on the sweet side, but well balanced with tartness. A wonderful drink to begin with. But, enjoy it quickly, it dilutes easily.
The Presidente is a fairly classic El Presidente with Santa Teresa Reserva rum, Cinzano dry vermouth, Curacao and pomegranate. I adore this rum for the Presidente, fruits and caramel, followed by winter spices and oak. The Cinzano’s dryness does not overpower this wonderful rum and neither does the pomegranate. Easily one of the best short drinks on this menu.
The Metropole was a very surprising drink: Courvoisier Exclusif, sweet vermouth, Dubonnet, Peychaud’s and Orange bitters. The initial flavour is intensely chocolate, with strains of the CV Exclusif’s Borderies Cru fruit lines simmering in. Halfway through, the other ingredients begin to shine, the vermouths open up to the palate, followed by the orange bitters in the background. A very intriguing, but heavy drink.
The next two drinks have incredible potential, but are a bit imbalanced to intense sweetness.
The traditional, classic New Corpse Reviver: Louis Royer VS Pommeau (which I am deducing would be Louis Royer VS Cognac, apple must, with apple brandy) and sweet vermouth follows Craddock’s recipe in the 1930’s Savoy Handbook, going to show that not all classic recipes are intensely dry or bitter. This have a very heavy mouthfeel, and is intensely sweet. If you are looking for a dessert drink, this would be a good one.
As we said with the Pisco Embassy last week (Click HERE for review), Pisco once again proves to be a difficult ingredient to use in cocktails. The Apiscopalian brings Pisco Porton, Aperol and peach to the table. In order to balance the sweetness of the peach with the Aperol and strong Pisco, the drink swings to the opposite end of the spectrum with a thick, syrupy texture making it difficult to drink. The intense sweetness, if you aren’t a fan of it, can make it rather sickly. Not a fan of this drink, but at our table of four, one did enjoy it for the first half of the glass.
Finally, the unfortunate Journalist, taken out of the Savoy Handbook again, Beefeater gin, Curacao, sweet and dry vermouth, citrus, bitters, was not only too overbearing with the orange and citrus throughout, but when made, was overdone with the orange peel spray, resulting in being too oily.
Serivce-wise, with Joe and Chris, it is impossible to have anything negative with the service, whereas kinks regarding table-service are being ironed out once it gets crowded. Regarding cocktails, the Presidente, Canopy and Metropole stood out as winners, with the New Corpse Reviver running up. Though orange pervades the menu, it is not tiresome, thankfully. And though the Journalist and Apiscopalian do not quite work, you can tell by the recipe.
A fantastic bartender, a great design, and an incredible 24 hour license make Sovereign Loss a perfect late night spot when partying in the area. Hoodooist Recommended!
Drinks: *** – ****
469 Brixton Road,
London SW9 8HH