Daunting concept aside, the Olive Oil Old Fashioned is a surprisingly easy drink to get along with. It’s one of the latest creations of Marcis Dzelzainis, the head bartender at Bethnal Green’s Mission, and formerly of fine cocktail pedigree including 69 Colebrooke Row and Satan’s Whiskers, just around the corner from his new home.
The product of a partnership between the Californian-inspired, rustic bar and small-batch bourbon Woodford Reserve, the Olive Oil Old Fashioned is an unusual but delectable tipple. Mercifully, Dzelzainis has done a bit more than just pour a good glug of oil on top of some whiskey; instead, the olive oil is used to fat-wash Woodford Reserve bourbon, infusing the spirit with the flavours of the oil without clinging to the grease.
Throw in some sandalwood syrup, olive leaf bitters and one whopping great ice cube and you have the Olive Oil Old Fashioned. The result is less bitter than a typical Old Fashioned, bringing out the almost honeyed sweetness of the bourbon. It’s also astonishingly smooth, with just the tiniest hint of oiliness creating a thick, luxurious texture, each mouthful lingering on the palate.
But the Olive Oil Old Fashioned doesn’t stand alone at Mission: the rest of the cocktail menu is no less adventurous. A Marshmallow Punch threatens the ungodly combination of gin and marshmallow syrup, while the Wax & Smoke is built around beeswax tequila and pollen liqueur.
Mission’s cocktail menu has perhaps been overshadowed by its California-dominated wine list and stellar reputation as a restaurant. And with Head Chef Sebastian Meyers at the helm, formerly of Chiltern Firehouse, Faviken and Vijante, this reputation is undoubtedly well deserved. The seasonal menu changes frequently, but current highlights include rich, succulent duck hearts on cabbage, and melt-in-your-mouth, oh-God-this-is-too-good-to-be-true smoked eel with crispy shallots. Seriously, the eel was great. Though with Dzelainis’s upcoming cocktail masterclasses, teaching budding cocktailateurs the booze-soaked ropes, it looks like drinks might soon be taking pride of place.
Bethnal Green is enjoying a surge in tasting menus and creative cocktails, and it’s all too easy for great finds to disappear in the mix. But it’d be a real shame if anyone lost sight of the Mission bar, so take our advice and make it next on your list.
Words by Dom Preston