A conversation with Lucia Montanelli, the head bartender at Vesper Bar
“The new cocktail menu at Vesper Bar at The Dorchester pays homage to the past to create a new future” explains head bartender Lucia Montanelli.
The cocktail menu is entitled Moments At The Dorchester and each cocktail has been presented to reflect elements of the guest experience whilst visiting the iconic hotel and bar.
Vesper Bar is most obviously linked to the character of James Bond and they have welcomed every Bond actor since the film franchise began.
The most popular drink is the License To Chill, an aperitivo drink served on block ice with an embedded 9mm golden cacao bullet and of course the Vesper Martini.
As a quick James Bond cocktail trivia segue the Americano was the first cocktail enjoyed by the famous spy in Casino Royale in 1953.
Lucia and the team have elaborated beyond the immediate James Bond association, educating us that Vesper is also the name given to the Evening Star, the appearance of Venus in the western sky as the sun falls, and the beginning of the cocktail hour.
Thinking about what experience the guests will be enjoying at this time, has inspired several drinks including First Impression made with Seatrus Gin, Galliano, Melomel (mead infused with fruit), Bob’s Lavender Bitters, Veuve Cliquot Yellow Label and orange essence.
When asked about the process involved in creating this menu Lucia shared, “We started with a big whiteboard and a concept to focus on particular ingredients and how we can build out different flavours from them. As a team, we selected flavours of interest and the first anchors for us were corn, cherry, peas and pistachio. The menu was flavour first and then we linked them to iconic moments and installations at The Dorchester.
The Theatre of Dreams cocktail for example was centred around the ingredient corn. This was the longest drink to develop on our list. We tried corn syrup, a corn shrub, and roasted corn husk and eventually found a kernel corn foam that worked the best. We found Scotch provided the structure and backbone that was needed and the combination of Glenmorangie 10yr, mezcal and agave with the corn foam created a drink we are proud of.
The Dorchester is famous for the length of service from their team, Lucia is celebrating 9 years, former Bars Manager Giuliano Morandin celebrated over 40 years at The Dorchester before retiring in 2022 and the current Head of Bars Simon Rowe has now been in the business for 33 years.
When talking to Lucia about her feelings on leading a team she shared the following thoughts:
“The team comes first, guests can’t be happy if the team isn’t happy. Share your knowledge and pass it on. I have gotten to this position by listening and learning from lots of people. If you don’t teach, people don’t grow and we want people in the team who want to grow and develop.”
What considerations do you have when making cocktails in such a prestigious setting?
First impressions really count so the service needs to be impeccable and the appearance of the cocktail memorable We are fortunate that we can deliver each of our drinks in a glass specifically designed for the cocktail.
Gone are the elaborate garnishes, now we only use them to add to the flavour of the drink. As a 5-star hotel bar we can’t have cocktails going 86 (meaning to run out) and need to be mindful of the wide international array of hotel guests alongside all the people that visit us as a destination bar in London, we have to deliver for all these types of customer.
Do you have any advice on making great drinks at home?
At home I always advise keeping it simple, never skimp on the ice and drinks you can build in the glass or serve straight from the freezer will always be easier to deliver for your guests.
And finally when we come back is there another cocktail you would recommend?
For the bartenders that visit I like to recommend The Rose. There is actually a Dorchester Rose that was cultivated for us and the drink is a champagne-style cocktail. We turn excess champagne into syrup, we lacto ferment cherries which create a deep umami flavour and turn this into a soda. Full of flavour and technically a difficult drink to deliver.
Visit Lucia and the team at the Vesper Bar to say hello. The new look bar designed by Martin Brudnizki’s interpretation of the 1930s is part of a wider refurbishment program by The Dorchester Collection.