The name isn’t just a metaphor – this new bar really isn’t much bigger than an actual liquor cabinet. And it’s also something of a riposte to all those so-called ‘speakeasies’ opening in London in recent years; it’s properly hard to find, on a stubby side street off Hackney Road, accessed down a narrow staircase underneath a kebab shop. Instead of 1930s design affectations, it’s rough and ready, looking like you could not only build it in an afternoon but disassemble it and build it again before evening service. It’s dark and basic and boozy.
None of this is a criticism – it feels exciting to be drinking somewhere so casual and DIY when so many places these days open with maximum PR and glamour. The drinks, though, are anything but rudimentary. The limited space means that a lot of thought has gone into the drinks selection, which is all premium stuff (Blanton’s Single Barrel bourbon, Martin Miller’s gin, Einstök Toasted Porter from Iceland). The cocktails too are far better than such a basic set-up should allow – they’re all made before opening and chilled in dinky little flip-top bottles, so when you order a negroni or an old-fashioned or a tequila martinez, they’re ready in seconds, perfect every time and only cost six quid.
Liquor Cabinet is open evenings only, but really, when else would you want to visit a cocktail bar under a kebab shop in Hackney Road?
Reviewed by Euan Ferguson