Coupette, Bethnal Green: bar review
At new neighbourhood cocktail bar Coupette, we discover a distinctively French take on cocktail culture, with a drinks list full of calvados, cidre and grape-based liqueurs
It's tempting to think that the landscape of London's world-leading bar scene is influenced mainly by the historic bars of London, old and contemporary US cocktail culture, and, increasingly, the aperitivo tradition of Italy. But, when it comes to food and drink, Chris Moore tells me, "the French are good at everything. Especially when it involves grapes."
Moore's statement is both self-evident and curious: it goes without saying that the French are "good at" wine. But at a bar, it can be easy to forget the virtues of French cidre, or cognac, or calvados; or that classic cocktails like the sazerac would be nothing if not for the French's ingenuity in alcoholic drinks.
And it's emphasised by one particular cocktail at Coupette, the Bethnal Green venue Moore founded recently after a long stint at the Savoy hotel's Beaufort Bar. It's aptly named 'The Vine', and is made up of nine grape-based drinks, including Noilly Prat dry vermouth, Alsatian riesling, Jurançon, Vin de Liqueur and Aerated XO cognac, served straight up. It's a formidable balancing act, and one that tastes a little like dry vermouth, but simultaneously more intensely flavoured, more rounded, and more subtle.
This is what you'll find at Coupette. A heavy emphasis on French ingredients, but drinks that are accessible – made to drink, not to study, but whose complexities make themselves known just after the first sip. The Champagne Piña Colada, for example, is exactly that: it's a velvety cocktail, made with rum, coconut milk, champagne and finely crushed ice, which starts off appealingly smutty and finishes refined and elegant.
Or the Apples, simply a monthly-changing calvados and a carbonated juice of similarly rotating apple varieties, which has immediate apple not unlike a bottle of Appletiser and then lingers deliciously on the palate in a manner unlike any soft drink. Coupette, with its loungey feel and similarly beautifully put-together food menu, is full of charms like these. Vive la France, and allez les cocktails.
423 Bethnal Green Road, E2 0AN; coupette.co.uk