By Rob Pickard
The recently opened St Pancras Renaissance Hotel is quite a sight, set within one of London’s most iconic landmarks, this 5 star hotel is now one of the leading hotels in the city, and hailed as the city’s most romantic building. Originally opened as the Midland Grand Hotel in 1873, it was designed to receive travellers through St Pancras station, offering guests glamour and luxury within Victorian London. Today one of the main parts of the hotel which travellers will experience is the Booking Office Bar, featuring a bespoke drinks list which harps back to the hotel’s Victorian roots, and aims to be one of the leading cocktail bars in the city.
When the Midland Grand Hotel opened, Britain was at the height of a mixed drink explosion. The publication of Loftus’ “New Mixing Book” and Terrington’s “Cooling Cups and Dainty Drinks”, both in 1869, paved the way for a new kind of enjoyment in the taverns, saloons, public houses and apothecaries of Victorian London. With this in mind the Booking Office lists an interesting array of punches and mixed drinks recreated from lost recipes from the era, as well as a range of bespoke and seasonal cocktails that will change throughout the year.
As well as these old school punch recipes, a range of martinis are on offer, all including the addition of one of their many house‐made bitters. Grand drinks such as ‘Soyer au Champagne’ (cider brandy, orange liqueur, cherry liqueur, vanilla ice‐cream and champagne), which was served at Banquets in the former hotel; will be served alongside your more common tipples, such as Bass Shandy and Gin & Tonic, plus also temperance cordials such as Blood Tonic, Dandelion & Burdock and Sarsparilla. The bar also serves a patriotic range of ales, ciders, perries and porters from historical and contemporary brewers across Britain.
On a recent trip to the Booking Office, we sampled some of the cocktails on offer, and these guys are really offering something quite different. These grand creations are served in impressive bespoke handmade copper-punch bowls, made exclusively for the hotel. Some of the classic punches on offer include: Charles Dickens Memorial Punch, Billy Dawson’s Punch and the Garrick Club Punch.
Another nice touch comes on the punch menu, where you’ll find the recipe written out on the menu in a similar fashion to a recipe book, much like what you will have found on a drinks menu in Victorian London. Check out these old school recipes taken from the Booking Office menu -
Charles Dickens Memorial Punch -
Combine 6oz of demerara sugar (rough cubes), 400ml pineapple infused rum and 250ml Martell VSOP Cognac. Mix the sugar and alcohol, then heat until the sugar dissolves, extinguish the flame, then add the juice of 3 lemons and a quart (1litre) of boiling water. Pour the liquid into a jar and cover, allow to cool, then uncover, taste and serve.
Billy Dawson’s Punch -
In an earthenware bowl that holds around 1.5 litres muddle the peel of 2 lemons with 4oz demerara sugar, then add 200mls of boiling water and stir to dissolve the sugar. To this mix add 75ml lemon juice, 250mls of Jamaican Rum, 125mls of VSOP Cognac, 25mls Batavia Arrack and 75mls of good porter. Stir this together and then add 300mls of boiling water. Can be served hot or cold, with the addition of nutmeg.
Garrick Club Punch -
250mls of gin, poured over the zest of a lemon and the juice of 3 lemons. To this add 50mls of Maraschino, 250mls of water and 250mls of soda water.
So if you are out in London, or indeed passing through St Pancras, stop by and check out these Victorian recipes. We had the Billy Dawson’s Punch, and it comes highly recommended! Plus if you’re not into your cocktails and prefer a glass of wine, the wine menu is also pretty impressive, offering one of the most interesting and original by the glass selections in London.