The Four Sisters, Islington
Would you agree that some of the finest things in life are an acquired taste, and ones that you only fall in love with as you get older? This was the case for me for coffee, blues, and last but not least, cocktails.
In Southern France where I come from, the staple of apéritif is Pastis, an anise-flavoured spirit that you mix with water and ice and is deliciously fresh on the palate, perfect on a hot summer evening while the meat is sizzling on the barbecue. In Lille and Paris, where I was a graduate student, I would frequently stop by a brasserie to catch up with friends over a Picon bière, a light beer served with a classic orange liqueur, and a surprisingly graceful pairing. At gatherings like Christmas, you can be sure to find French guests with a kir in hand, which is a simple blend of dry or sparkling wine (sometimes champagne) with a fruit liqueur, particularly blackcurrant, peach or grapefruit.
I am really fond of the drinks above and yet, it took a move to London for me to expand my horizons where cocktails are concerned. You see, I was that girl always ordering a glass of chardonnay at the bar and I have to credit my friends Andy and Marc for introducing me to crowd-pleasers like Drambuie and Southern Comfort which, all non ground-breaking blends of whisky that they are, opened doors for me. As I ticked off the months spent in London, I got acquainted with the city’s dynamic cocktail scene and fell in love, not just with the drinks themselves, but the experience of discovering a new haunt, studying the myriad of options that a good menu provides and the craft and expertise that goes into making a gorgeous drink.
Today, I want to introduce you to what is sure to become a favourite venue of mine: the Four Sisters in Islington. An intimate yet unpretentious cocktail bar with high ceilings, subdued lighting, a wicked signature menu and mellow jazz which accelerates in pace as the evening advances. I had the pleasure to visit with my friends Sarah and Jasiminne last week and was really charmed. I tried three drinks that I would love to recommend: an original cocktail, a classic cocktail with a twist and a winter special. Let me tell you more.
This was the Geisha: a mix of vodka, champagne, elderflower liqueur, hibiscus syrup and fresh grapefruit, served with a cherry piqued in a hibiscus flower and it was utterly delicious. Sweet, but not too sweet, strong but not too strong. Exotic, flowery and fruity. Dangerous by all accounts.
My second drink was a twist on an Old-Fashioned: Rum instead of rye whisky, served with chocolate syrup and bitters. You’d be hard-pressed to find a better combination than chocolate and orange in my book, so I enjoyed this immensely, it was a sophisticated drink, packed full of flavour and fuel for the soul.
Last but not least, I had a Gingerbread, which was Christmas perfection in a cocktail if I ever saw one. Readers, I would encourage you to reproduce this little wonder of a drink over the holidays if you are looking to impress. The recipe hereafter is courtesy of the Four Sisters and serves one: 40 ml Martel V.S Cognac, 20 ml Grand Marnier, 20 ml Lemon juice, 15 ml Gingerbread syrup. It is so good, so just trust me and make it if you can. I know I will.
What else can I tell you about the Four Sisters? It’s a five minutes walk from Highbury and Islington and fifteen minutes from Angel station. It has a lovely atmosphere where you won’t feel out of place if you are underdressed, like say, at a hotel bar. It’s slightly off the high street so you’re guaranteed to be spared the rowdy crowds.
More importantly, its bartenders (including Simon the owner) are really passionate about what they do, and it shows in the drinks. I know they will love to walk new cocktail-enthusiasts through their menu, which drinks are all made using natural ingredients like home-made infusions, syrups and shrubs.
This December, they partnered with British botanical label Kamm & Sons on a Mulled Cider and Mulled Wine so it’s a great time to visit. If you don’t want to splurge you will be happy to know that there is a daily Happy Hour from 4pm to 7pm with two cocktails for £10. They have a few exciting projects up their sleeve for next year, with British producers and micro-distilleries, so I’d recommend keeping in touch via Twitter | Facebook.
The Four Sisters – 25 Canonbury Lane, London N1 2AS
Open Monday to Thursday from 4pm to midnight, Friday and Saturday from 4pm to 2am.
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