The return of the Dry Martini

EP talks to Gioele Camarlinghi, General Manager of the Melia White House hotel.

In a fast-moving society, we attach more value to roots and history. This is particularly apparent in the world of cocktails and bars, such as the Dry Martini bar housed in the Melia White House hotel.

Dry Martini recently launched as the London outpost of the Barcelona original and is run by Javier de la Muelas, widely regarded as one of the world’s best mixologists. The original is named by World’s 50 Best Bars as the fifth best in the world. The London Dry Martini is in the capable hands of Martin Siska, who was Bar Manager at the Barcelona site. Javier de las Muelas always mixes his martinis with gin not vodka, which is mirrored in the London branch. “We wanted to remain true to the original concept in Barcelona and to stick to Javier’s recipes. There are 80 to choose from so there should be something for everyone!” explains Gioele. The vintage aspect of the bar is something that we’ve seen more and more of in the last couple of years – old-fashioned venues, with a prohibition theme, bars that specialise in a Gimlet, Julep or an Old Fashioned. Speakeasies account for a large percentage of new bar openings in London and the heritage trend is showing no sign of slowing.

“In London there is clearly not a shortage of bars. Our difference is experiencing something a bit special. The focus on authentic cocktails with quality ingredients plus the luxurious feel of the bar itself means it’s very different to other venues.”

Dry Martini has shiny dark wood panelling and checkerboard floor design, set off with bright bursts of colour from mismatched seats, making it elegant but comfortable. It manages to celebrate both heritage and innovation, while remaining relaxed and stylish. The long copper bar has a section dedicated to creating one of the many martinis on the menu. Every time a guest orders one it is added to the prominent digital tally on the wall, and they are issued with a stamped certificate Ð another nod to the tradition of the original venue.

Melia White House opened in 1936 and was originally luxury apartments. The 1930s architecture remains, and it has more than a whisper of art deco about it, which suits the vintage, heritage feel of the bar well. Dry Martini was formerly Longford’s – a traditional hotel bar, which it is fair to say lacked character. Now the new concept has reinvigorated other options in the hotel, and exposed it to a new market.

Dry Martini’s ethos is that they try to educate and encourage people to broaden their horizons. “We try to make guests aware of our heritage Ð we have a long history and know what we’re doing! As with any good bartender, if they are unsure, we encourage people to tell us what they like and then create something to reflect that. Our staff’s creativity and attention to detail means customers are very happy.”

One of the challenges facing Dry Martini is making customers aware that it’s there, as it’s nestled inside Melia White House and isn’t visible to the street. “We knew this would have to be a focus for us, creating awareness of Dry Martini’s location and ethos,” explains Gioele. “It has to be a destination, so our target market includes those living and working in London as a whole, as well as the hotel guests. We are seeing more and more guests who come into the hotel specifically to go to Dry Martini, which we haven’t had in the past and isn’t common in a four-star hotel. We hope to see this success continue.”