Don’t like cocktails? Read no more. For the discerning among you, Ray’s Bar offers an alluring mix of old favourites and new experimentation
Review by Martin Stickey
So, hands up who doesn’t like cocktails? Anyone…? Okay, you at the back, you can leave right now you heathen, we don’t take to kindly to your sort round here. For everyone still here I’m sure you’ll agree that there is something dangerously alluring about cocktails and as we slide into summer months the attraction to their heady and creative delights couldn’t be stronger. More often than not I’m a straight up beer and ale drinker but even I can appreciate the finely honed skill of a good mixologist. Despite the fact that I often find it hard to actually take the time to savour the drink and its complex flavours, rather than throw it back in one satisfying gulp, I decided to behave myself and head to one of London’s latest cocktail establishments so that I really could appreciate their art.
Ray’s Bar in Dalston is tucked away beneath Voodoo Ray’s pizza place on Kingsland Road and opened its doors late 2016. It is a subterranean wonderland devoted to craftily mixing the finest liquid ingredients to tickle your taste buds and dazzle your eyes. The venue also features regular live jazz and late-night DJ sets creating an atmosphere which feels a little bit like a prohibition era speakeasy which has been pushed forward in time to 1980s Miami – but don’t worry, I mean that as a compliment.
The idea at Ray’s Bar is simple, the cocktails are all arranged like a restaurant menu with aperitifs, mains, desserts and an “after party” section (well, you can’t have a cheese-board cocktail can you?) the idea being that the flavours flow through the drinking experience. I took the time to have a natter with one of the hosts and bartenders who pointed me towards a few favourites and also gave me some interesting facts about the drinks and how they’re created (the Tropic Thunder for example is a clarified milk punch Pina Colada which tastes utterly sublime yet for all its creaminess is completely clear). Being a huge rum fan, my picks from the menu are the Motor City Rum ensemble (Havana rum, Vermouth, Lime, Cynar and Date Syrup), Last Mango in Paris (Havana rum, Plantation Overproof, Blue Curaçao, Lime, Mango Lassi and Orgeat syrup) and the brilliantly named Monkey Tennis (Monkey 47 Gin, Mastiha liqueur, Lime & Grapefruit Sherbets, Lime and Soda). The Motor City has the deep molasses richness you’d expect from the rum and the sweetness of the date syrup but it is brought back round by the zing lime kick, all in all a superb long drink to savour. The Last Mango is a beautifully presented dessert delight, a definite must for those who like sweet cocktails. For those looking for something a bit more fresh, the Monkey Tennis is a great opener being both refreshing and zesty; absolutely ideal for a hot summer evening.
The vibe at Ray’s is very relaxed, the music funky and the staff extremely friendly and if you decide to throw in one of the gargantuan pizzas from Voodoo Ray’s upstairs (if you’ve not seen one they are a whopping 22 inches and can be ordered to be brought downstairs to you) you’ve got the perfect combination for a night of debauched fun.
Enquiries: Ray’s Bar, 95 Kingsland High Street, Dalston, London E8 2PB / 0207 2548860 / http://raysbarlondon.com/