At Central London’s Velvet Bar, Shrug Off the Cold With Cabaret and a Truffle Sazerac

Equal parts plush and glamorous, the history-laden spot soars with sumptuous touches while dishing out imaginative cocktails by bartending maestro Salvatore Calabrese.

Credit (all images): Alex Upton/David Collins Studio

Opening Shot is a column that peeks inside new hotels, restaurants, bars, and shops with dreamy interiors.


Location: Central London

Designer: David Collins Studio

On Offer: Tucked inside the Corinthia, a grand dame of London’s Victorian-era upper-crust hotels with past lives as an entertaining spot favored by royals, digs for WWII-era spy and intelligence operations, and later, a cabaret, is Velvet. Equal parts plush and glamorous, the cocktail bar’s velour banquettes, brass cocktail tables, and literal piano bar collectively nod to various eras in its storied past. But Velvet is hardly a period piece. Take the art: gestural, abstracted flower collages by Suffolk-based painter Robson Stannard have pride of place on the walls. A standout cocktail menu by renowned bartender Salvatore Calabrese balances his knowledge with a touch of cheeky irreverence. (Case in point: the “Breakfast Martini.”)

Standout Features: Few places, let alone bars, feel instantly warm and familiar in the way that Velvet does. In that respect it stands out in a similar way to the Carlyle’s famous Bemelmans Bar in New York City. But Calabrese’s bartending prowess, as befits the former President of the United Kingdom Bartenders’ Guild, puts Velvet in a category of its own. 

While the rest of the world seems content to rest on their laurels, dishing out perfectly fine espresso martinis and negronis, Velvet offers a Negroni Svegliato (No, not sbagliato, and certainly not with prosecco.) Velvet’s take adds a coffee twist to the classic gin-vermouth-Campari trifecta. The aforementioned Breakfast Martini is a sleeper hit thanks to the tangy-sweet addition of marmalade, Cointreau, and lemon juice into the standard mix of, well, gin. But if it’s lighting in a bottle—er, glass—you’re after, order the Truffle Sazerac. True to its name, truffle-imbued Rèmy Martin VSOP melds with bourbon, orange bitters, and a mysterious “umami syrup” to spectacular effect. It’s a drink as singularly warming and one-of-a-kind as the bar serving it.

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