One of the most recognisable faces in the bar world, The Journal talks to Alessandro Palazzi, Head Barman at St James's iconic Dukes Bar, who has gained a reputation for creating some of the best Martinis in the world.
Nestled in the Heart of St James’s just a short walk from Jermyn Street, Dukes Hotel is the very embodiment of luxury and elegance. Beyond the hotel lobby you will find the world-renowned Dukes Bar, a cosy retreat which was once a favourite of James Bond creator Ian Fleming, among others. The atmosphere is warm and welcoming, pictures of eminent patrons hang from the walls, while bartenders turn the art of cocktail making into pure theatre – the ideal place for those looking to escape the London bustle – for an hour or two at least. Our host is Alessandro Palazzi, bar manager, cocktail legend and, with over 45 years in the trade, the personification of charm and charisma.
There are plenty of options but only one acceptable choice – the Dukes Martini. A classic in its own right, the drink has achieved iconic status since its inception over 30 years ago and is today as revered as ever.
Palazzi begins proceedings by giving the chilled glass a thorough rinse with an English dry vermouth, developed according to his own specifications in collaboration with a North London distillery. Then, he takes a bottle of gin from the freezer and simply pours, albeit with the focus and precision of a surgeon. The final, but essential, ingredient is a twist of organic lemon sourced from the Amalfi Coast. What does Palazzi put the enduring success of the Dukes Martini down to? “People always want great quality, served by staff who genuinely know their spirits inside and out, and love great service.”
The first thing that hits you is the burst of aroma from the lemon as the glass lingers in the air. As the glass hits your lips, the first sip is intoxicating. This is a drink to be enjoyed slowly, in the company of good friends and at an indulgent pace. With 5 shots of alcohol to a serving, there is, understandably, a two-drink limit.
As another day comes to an end and we sit with Martinis in hand, one realises that this is living each day to its potential.
Benson & Clegg are the official tailor of Dukes Hotel.