The cosy, narrow restaurant Charlotte’s Bistro in Chiswick, south-west London, is best known for its food but owner Alex Wrethman is starting to shout more loudly about the bar area at the front after the arrival of bar manager Laura Marnich (pictured) in April last year. She previously worked at London bar Sketch for two-and-a-half years and has brought high standards with an impressive list of classic and original cocktails.
Laura is keen on using seasonal ingredients, drawing on the resources of the kitchen, with herbs a regular feature in her recipes. “Every month, we try to come up with two or three new ideas,” she says. For the autumn and winter, she devised the Old Cottage, made with homemade pumpkin puree charged with almond, ginger and orange, shaken with Bulleit bourbon and Briottet Crème de Noisette.
Her delicious Mince Pie Martini, now no longer available as spring approaches, used traditional mince pie filling shaken vigorously with Hine cognac, apple juice, cognac-based pear liqueur Xanté and Grand Marnier with a float of vanilla-flavoured cream.
Laura has also been playing with vegetables such as the Kale Collins, a refreshing long drink made with fresh crushed ginger root, fresh kale, Tanqueray gin, lemon and cranberry juices, topped up with soda. The bar also has a permanent list featuring drinks such as a London Lion, a dry and bitter mix of Tanqueray gin infused with Rooibos tea, Aperol, Antica Formula vermouth and dashes of orange bitters, which Laura describes as a contemporary take on the Negroni.
Coming from north-east Italy, Laura is introducing some twists on Italian classics to tie in with the introduction of an Italian-style “aperitivo” menu to appeal to after-work drinkers. As well as an Aperol Spritz and Aperol Sour, she is planning her versions of drinks such as a Bellini and a Negroni Sbagliato.
The bar has been working with Sipsmith microdistillery in Hammersmith, west London, on special Sunday cocktail menus using its vodka and gin, and this has heralded a decision to specialise in English gins. A new gin cabinet will be added shortly, stocking between 20 and 30 brands such as Sipsmith, Bloom, Hayman’s and Tanqueray. Laura admits that her favourite spirits used to be rum and bourbon but she has grown to appreciate gin. “There’s a lot for you to play around with because of all the different botanicals,” she says.
Charlotte’s Bistro, 6 Turnham Green Terrace London W4 1QP. Tel: 020 8742 3590 www.charlottes.co.uk
A shorter version of this article appears in the February 2012 issue of Bar magazine