Drink: Heard the whisper?

The Library Bar, in London, has a secret that makes its cocktails the best in town: mix maestro Salvatore Calabrese

Of all the bartenders serving cocktails in London, the most highly respected - if not the best known - must be Salvatore Calabrese. He is not a shake, rattle and roller who high-fives his mates; he serves in the luxurious, book-lined, leather-upholstered calm of the Library Bar in The Lanesborough hotel on Hyde Park Corner, London. Although the atmosphere feels exclusive, Salvatore and his team's skills draw appreciative waves of outsiders into the bar at the heart of the hotel, as well as residents who stay sipping something special into the wee small hours.

As vice president of the UK Bartenders Guild for the past 10 years, Salvatore has organised national competitions, written two books on cocktails and can recite the history of great drinks - or invent his own with from the breathtaking array of bottles at his disposal. Only the other day, Salvatore devised something appropriately sweet and strong for Michael Bolton - vodka, Archers peach schnapps and honey, served with a sharp shake. "You can't be called a maestro unless you can create," he says. "I take any opportunity to make a new cocktail." Another speciality is cognac, of which he has one of the finest collections in the world. Last year, some regular high rollers got through a 1789 bottle in one evening - at pounds 1,000 a glass.

Salvatore started when he was 11, in Amalfi, Italy. He has been in the business for 33 years, and has developed philosophies of cocktails. The drink doesn't go to his head, but he admits, disarmingly: "Modesty is not my thing. A lot of people say I'm one of the greatest hosts in the world."

The Library Bar, The Lanesborough, Hyde Park Corner, London SW1 (0171- 259 5599) Mon-Sat 11am-11pm, Sun noon-10.30pm.

Salvatore's drinks

Breakfast Martini

An aperitif for drinking before dinner, not breakfast. The name comes from the marmalade, which adds the combination of sharpness and sweetness essential for the best cocktails. There are no lumps in it, but an awakening, tart taste of orange.

Dash Cointreau

Dash lemon juice

1tsp marmalade

Generous measure Bombay Sapphire gin (from the freezer)

Put everything in a cocktail shaker and shake. Strain into a frosted Martini glass. Garnish with a twist of orange zest.

Wake Up 2000

Salvatore's hangover cure (pictured centre) for the start of the new millennium could come into its own any time between now and then. It's a variation on a Bloody Mary, and although the combination of tomato juice and Champagne sounds odd, the Cointreau provides a mediating sweetness. Salvatore recommends vodka to ease the pain and top up alcohol levels, the Cointreau for its pick-me- up sugar content, the sharpness of lemon juice to settle the stomach, and the tomato juice for renewed health.

30ml vodka

20ml Cointreau

10ml lemon juice

Tomato juice mixed with Tabasco, Worcestershire sauce, and a pinch of salt and sugar

Champagne

Pour all ingredients (except the Champagne) into a mixer with ice and shake. Pour into a chilled highball glass with ice until three-quarters full. Top up with Champagne, stir gently and garnish with a wedge of lime.

Cupid's Corner

The Library Bar has a hidden corner alcove that is, understandably, a hot-spot for trysting couples. Salvatore's unashamedly pink cocktail is designed to work its magic in the secret corner. It's a drink for after dinner.

30ml cognac

30ml Chambord liqueur

30ml fresh cream

Dash of grenadine

Pour all the ingredients into a shaker with ice. Shake, then strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a small drop of cream in the centre of the drink. Then, using a cocktail stick, gently make the outline shape of a heart on the surface. n

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