Thoughts on a very smoky smoky maple cocktail at The Leopard Bar in Bloomsbury, London

We’d hiked around the fabulous Hockney exhibition, the Gay Artists exhibition, and we’d completed every room of the Pop Art exhibition at the British Museum.

We were bushed.

We needed somewhere to restore our aching feet, somewhere we could replenish our spirits. One of us had done her homework and found the perfect place just around the corner from the museum.

I liked the Montague Hotel at once. It is not one of those smart minimalist places – it’s warm and welcoming, chinz and velvet, rather English. We made a bee line to the bar, a wonderful room papered in leopard skin, with paintings of leopards everywhere and even a sort of leopard design on the carpet.


Snow Leopard vodka
My fellow investigator enjoying her Leopard cocktail.


My fellow Saucy Dressings investigator promptly and appropriately ordered a Leopard cocktail. This was a heady mix of Snow Leopard Vodka (see best vodkas from Poland on Some of the World’s Best Vodka), Frangelico* and Amarula liquor**. She seemed very content with that.

I am keen on smoke though (smoky, peaty whiskysmoked oystersdirty martini); and I love maple syrup so for me it had to be the Smokey Maple. This was a mix of Bulleit Rye, whose ‘light spiciness is combined with the sweetness of maple syrup and the subtle fruitiness of apricot brandy to give a hearty mixture of flavour. This cocktail is served in our smoking dome for enhanced flavour.’  Follow this link for a post on rye whiskey, and the composition of Bulleit Rye.

Say no more – a towering cocktail with an entertainment factor thrown in. And speaking of entertainment we were lucky enough to be there on one of the two days when The Blazers, the Leopard Bar’s resident jazz band was playing. Singer and guitarist, Oliver Darling, was a smooth crooner; Martin Winning’s clarinet cut through the music like smoke through rye. A musician who has played alongside Van Morrison and Ray Charles, he dedicated a tune to Saucy D herself – wonderful!


The Leopard Bar
The Blazers….playing away like blazes…



*What is Frangelico?

Frangelico comes in a fanciful bottle representing the profile of a monk, complete with ‘rope’ around its waist. Essentially it’s a liqueur from Piedmont made from toasted hazelnuts and combined with coffee, cocoa, and vanilla distillates. The monk bottle, and the name, an abbreviation of ‘Fra’ Angelico’. The legend goes that, in addition to being a heavenly artist, and painting heavenly scenes, the Dominican monk, Fra’ Angelico, who died in 1495 also enjoyed using his creative juices to invent liqueurs, of which Frangelico was one.


Fabulous Fra Angelico heavenly painting
Fabulous Fra Angelico heavenly painting – and he was quite good at inventing liqueurs too….


However, as a Dominican his robe would have been white and without a rope at the waist…. but to worry about that would be pedantic.


Frangelico - made from hazelnuts
Frangelico – the bottle is supposed to look like a monk.

Campari bought the brand in 2010.

It’s good mixed with cranberry juice, in coffee (I can imagine this would be rather good), with vodka, as in The Leopard cocktail above, or in a Chocolate Cake shooter.


What is a chocolate cake shooter?

A chocolate cake shooter is a mix of equal parts Frangelico and vodka (1½ oz/3 tbsps of each per person), served in a glass with a rim frosted by moistening it with lemon juice and coating with white sugar, together with a lemon wedge. Try using a Polish Sobieski vodka which has a citrus taste.

The idea is to lick the rim, shoot the mixture, and then suck the lemon. Magically, this tastes like chocolate cake – the lemon must somehow bring out the cocoa infusion in the Frangelico.


**What is Amarula?

Amarula is an African liqueur made with cream and the fruit of the marula tree (aka elephant tree – since those animals rather like the fruit). Like Snow Leopard vodka, the distillers support elephant conservation. The drink tastes of slightly fruity caramel.


Amarula - made from the fruit of the Amarula tree, beloved of elephants
Amarula – made from the fruit of the Amarula tree, beloved of elephants.


The Montague Hotel is at 15 Montague St, Bloomsbury, London WC1B 5BJ. The Blazers (who also usually include double bassist, Costa Tancredi, perform 6:00pm – 9:30pm on Wednesday and Thursday evenings.

I also noticed there was a light and airy conservatory and garden adjoining the bar which looked like a good place for a light lunch.


For other posts about cocktails follow this link.

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