No one knows a bar better than the people behind it. For “My Bar in 3 Drinks,” the people running the best bars around make and discuss three of their bar’s most representative cocktails.
The London bar that goes by a trio of Bauhaus-influenced primary-color shapes—a yellow triangle, red square, and blue circle—also called A Bar with Shapes for a Name (“Shapes” for short), is an artistic vision conceived by star bartender Remy Savage and his business partner Paul Lougrat. Through its design and drinks, the bar aims to challenge its guests to reimagine what a bar is or should be.
After the duo’s time working together at the award-winning London cocktail bar Artesian, where they developed cutting-edge cocktail menus, including one designed to evoke emotions through familiar flavor memories in the form of drinks with just two ingredients, they determined to take their pursuit of minimalism and functionalism even further. Their East London-based Bauhaus-inspired bar is precisely that. (Savage and Lougrat expect to debut a second bar in fall 2021, which will be inspired by Art Nouveau.)
Behind the mahogany bar, evocative of a long communal desk, there are no bottles to be found. “It's like if you had a frame with no painting, you're going to notice the absence of a painting,” says Savage. “If you don’t have a painting, or in this case [bottles on] a back bar, then there is nothing, and we wanted this idea of ‘absence of.’”
This minimalism inspired by the Bauhaus movement is interlaced throughout the bar’s concept, both in its bare-bones studio-esque design, with unembellished mahogany tables of various heights with chairs and stools, and in its drinks. The bar stocks a meager 20 bottles, each chosen via blind tastings. The bar’s menu features 12 cocktails: six classic cocktails and six developed by Savage, Lougrat, and their team.
Savage and his team keep the structure of each cocktail simple to ensure each element of the drink is distinct and purposeful. “The idea of minimalism isn't just about something being plain or white,” says Savage. “It’s about, if you’re using something, use the most beautiful materials you can, because it's the only thing that people are going to interact with. And I think if you were to transpose this idea to a cocktail, the structure of the drink itself should be extremely simple.” The intentional simplicity of the program and its batched cocktails allows the team to serve drinks to guests in less than a minute with total consistency and relatively affordable prices (currently, no cocktail is above £9.50, or about $13).
While the house cocktails draw inspiration from the Bauhaus and other art forms, namely photography, flavor is ultimately the driving purpose. “There's a really awesome quote by an artist named Donald Judd that says, ‘the work isn't the point, the piece is,’” says Savage. “We just wanted to make drinks that are delicious.” While the bar uses advanced techniques, such as vacuum distillation via its rotary evaporator, to prepare ingredients, it’s all done with the purpose of creating optimal flavors for the cocktails.
These are the three drinks Savage feels best represent A Bar with Shapes for a Name.
Haku vodka, recomposed lime, rhubarb, Capreolus Distillery raspberry eau de vie, CO2
The Pastel, the best-selling cocktail on the menu, encapsulates the Bauhaus mindset of minimalism and functionalism; it’s a carbonated, individually bottled cocktail that can be served in a flash. “We thought it'd be good to have three carbonated drinks and three non-carbonated [on the menu] because of how late we’re open,” says Savage. “When you finish work at 3 a.m., or you were already out and had a lot to drink, you typically want something light and easy like a highball instead of drinking Dry Martinis at five in the morning.”
Its flavors may seem minimalist, but they disguise the unconventional methods used to create them. “It plays on the duality of acids between lime and rhubarb and the aromatic complexity of an extraordinary raspberry eau de vie from Capreolus Distillery,” says Savage. “We vacuum-distill our leftover lime juice in order to keep its authentic organoleptic composition, and simply recompose the taste artificially with acids salt and sugars, meaning that our lime is stable but is as true to organic lime as it can be [aromatically and on the palate].”
Savage uses a near-neutral vodka base to fortify the cocktail without overpowering the delicate flavors of the other ingredients. The mix is then force-carbonated and individually bottled in a glass vessel that the bar hand-paints with streaks of primary colors. To serve, guests pour the pastel-pink bottled cocktail over an array of clear ice spheres and cubes into a Nude highball glass from Savage’s own line.
2. Loop Light
Botanist gin, pipácha oolong tea, citra hops
This drink is named after the kind of lighting a photographer might use for a self-portrait, a nod to the bar’s artistic influences. “Loop Light is a favorite among guests, as it shows gin in a slightly different light,” says Savage of the fruity, warming highball-style cocktail. “Just as with the Pastel, the Loop Light was inspired by flavor and trying to use the best ingredients possible. We use a citra hops distillate, which yields a very fruity flavor, a special type of oolong tea called pipácha, which is brewed in cold water, and gin. It’s essentially a three-ingredient drink and is very easy [to drink].”
The rare pipácha tea is sourced from London’s Rare Tea Company and provides depth and complexity in both mouthfeel and flavor. “Pipácha is a port-barrel-aged oolong tea, which means it’s extra-dry and tannic,” says Savage. “I think it's the interaction between the dryness of the gin and its aromatic botanical backbone with the fruitiness of the tea that gives the cocktail these warming, fruity, fig-like notes. Aromatically, it’s extraordinarily complex. It’s not too sweet or sour, it’s just kind of like a refreshing and flavorful gin and water, and is good for people who want a Vodka Soda.”
Haku vodka, peach yogurt, absinthe
A great example of the bar’s flamboyant-minimalistic cocktails, the silky, unassuming Kasimir is one of Savage’s favorite drinks on the menu. “For the Kasimir, we simply blend vodka and an organic fresh peach yogurt and clarify it through the use of a high-speed centrifuge, meaning we are able to separate the liquids from the solids while still keeping traces of the lactic acid, which is responsible for the amazing round texture that we associate with dairy,” says Savage. The cocktail is finished with drops of absinthe blanche. “The interaction of the two main players, the peach yogurt and absinthe blanche, is absolutely fascinating,” he says.
The drink is served in a double rocks glass over a large ice cube that contains a small light prism inside. Savage was inspired both by Russian artist Kazimir Malevich (hence the drink’s name) and by playing with his young daughter, Zetta. “During lockdown we [Savage and Zetta] played a little bit with this glass prism by putting it in clear ice,” says Savage. “It was kind of a fun thing, trapping the prism in the ice.” He then got the idea of using it in a cocktail. “At first, I wasn’t sure if this was tacky or cheapening the concept, but it turns out that it’s everyone’s favorite,” he says.