Happily Ever After: Our Magical New Cocktail Menu

Rocco Forte Hotels

Maestro Salvatore Calabrese and Federico Pavan, Director of Mixology at Brown’s Hotel, discuss the creative process behind Happily Ever After, the Donovan Bar’s new fairytale-inspired cocktail menu, launching on 28th May.

Both hailing from Italy, they are the heart and soul of Mayfair’s Donovan Bar. The philosopher and the craftsman, the Maestro and the magician. We sat down with them in the bar’s famed naughty corner to discuss what makes them tick.

Calabrese, Salvatore
"‘You have a dream… and then you make it a reality’"

What is your creative process?

Salvatore: Before we construct a drink, we ask ourselves what we want to create and why? You pick up a dream, and then you make it a reality. So, the inspiration is from any fairytale that we encounter, we draw on the core of that inspiration. The apple is a key motif in Snow White, and that informed the structure of Seven Apples

Federico: The ‘seven’ in Seven Apples relates to the most beloved characters in Snow White’s story. We play with the apples to construct a flavour profile that represents seven personalities. Elevating a simple ingredient to its maximum expression is part of the challenge. For Midnight Scandal, our Cinderella-inspired cocktail, we celebrate different elements of the story. The glassware captures the magic of the crystal slipper, while the contrast in the ingredients narrates the ‘sparkle’ and the earthy flavours either side of midnight.

It’s a fun idea to sip a cocktail from a glass slipper. Will you be introducing any other special glassware?

Federico: The Donovan Bar has some of the finest glassware in the world, designed by the maestro himself. But we sometimes like to play with customers to help them escape reality, and this menu is the ideal opportunity. It’s fun to drink from an unusual vessel, such as Cinderella’s slipper or Jack’s golden egg.

Serving Three Wishes from Aladdin’s lamp into a beautiful Japanese mug, pouring high as they do in Asian and Moroccan tea ceremonies, is an engaging interaction, a way to connect the philosophy and the culture into our fairytale cocktail.

Some of your cocktail storytelling alludes to sustainability. Is this a priority for the Donovan Bar?

Salvatore: Sustainability is very important. We ensure that most of our cocktails are sustainable. Our Green Light cocktail is a good example of our effort to minimise food waste.

Federico: Garnishes are part of the cocktail experience, and they are important for visual appeal and for rounding out a drink’s flavour, but they can add to a bar’s waste. We peel cucumbers every day, and we don’t want the body to be wasted. The Green Light preserves it with lacto-fermentation. Now, this oft-discarded part becomes the main character.

Tell us about the non-alcoholic versions of your cocktails?

Federico: Our alcohol-free cocktails have the same character and flavour profile, and offer the same experience as the alcoholic versions. We give equal respect to these drinks. There are no placeholders on our menu. We want the customer to feel the same emotion, sense of wonder, and escape from reality. All that is changed is the base.

There’s a wonderful element of theatre involved in serving these drinks. Is that a key part of the experience?

Federico: Every cocktail is a journey. When we think about creating a drink, we consider three sensory factors - visual, aroma, and taste. Together, they create an emotional experience. You first choose a drink based on how it looks. We know not to judge a book by its cover, but if the cover is nice, you’re more likely to open the book. Preparing the drink in front of the customer puts you in the story together. 

The middle part of your journey is the aroma. You can be playful with guiding the customer in the direction that they will feel once they taste the flavour profile in the cocktail. The final leg of the journey is the tasting itself - the most important. A well-balanced drink must reach all the corners of your palate - the bitter part, the salt part, the ripe part, the sweetness… It's all important.

What is your favourite childhood story?

Salvatore: I like Aladdin. The classic tale of coming from nothing to become somebody. And also Peter Pan has two things I love the idea of: flying, and never growing old - something I try very hard not to do.


Happily Ever After launches on 28th May. Be part of the story.

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