If you love those dreams with crepuscular tonalities, where the ambience is saturated like a crime scene, this is the place for you.

The Nightjar is a cocktail bar in Shoreditch, London, that, after just one year from its opening (2010), has been listed among the ten best bars in the UK, and ranked eighteenth in the Drink International Top 50 Bars in the World 2011. Its name explains everything. The nightjar is a medium-sized nocturnal bird that is hard to see and that, unlike most of the birds, perches along a branch rather than across it. In the myths of certain Western cultures, this animal guides the souls to the afterlife; in other cultures, he represents death, or a bad omen. It is featured in the Garden of Earthly Delights of H. Bosch (1504) as the Prince of Hell, it is object of a poem by Sylvia Plath and a story by H.P. Lovecraft. In short, it is an animal of a certain reputation, quite perfect for embodying the concept of speakeasy, which turns the Nightjar into a unique bar.

The cocktail menu is divided in four sections and it offers recipes of the Pre-Prohibition, the Prohibition, the Post-War, but also Nightjar signatures. You will see Luca Cinalli and Marian Beke behind the bar shaking your drinks with elegance and exquisite theatricality. Their cocktails are unique not only for the use of house-made syrups and liqueurs, but also for their renowned garnishes, which have been studied along with herbalists and perfumers for a complete sensorial experience. If a jazz or a swing band is playing, you’ll see few people shyly dancing: the true attraction here are the drinks. Customers study minutely the menu for hours, they wait for the drinks to arrive and then they talk about them with the rest of the table. Hence the cocktails become, in this place, the principal subject of conversation. In alternative to the mixed drinks, there are wines and liqueurs of course, some as rare as the Old Time Gin (1910) or the Straight Rye Whisky (1863), both for £60 per shot.

I went to the Nightjar for two nights in a row, and I sat at the bar. I won’t hide the fact that I lost myself in the movements of the barman’s arms and hands: at times they were fluid as those of an ice skater, at times they were robotic, but always somehow connected to a ritual, in which I have always been included. For two times I ordered this signature cocktail made with a house spiced campari, Amaro Italiano, a quail’s egg and more. Well, yes, “More,” says Luca Cinalli, because “the recipes are tailored around the customer, and there’s always that unrepeatable touch. We are and we believe in the Speakeasy. Those are the ingredients: the rest, it’s between the customer and I!”. The Nightjar really seems the bar on that pier from which the souls get ferried to the hereafter. You go when it gets dark, when London becomes more silent and is ready to receive your secrets.

Sada Ranis

129 City Road
London – EC1V 1JB