Shaken, stirred and in your house

The recipe for the perfect cocktail party: hire a travelling bar staff to do the work for you. DARIUS SANAI places his order
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Indy Lifestyle Online
It's Saturday night and the cocktail bar is rammed with young people having a laugh. Drum 'n' bass rumbles through the speakers. The bartenders - or "mixologists" - are young and lissome, clad in black DKNY, spinning out this year's buzz drink, the Cosmopolitan, while the crowd mingles and flirts.

Sound like an exclusive London club? Actually, it's my house. Three months ago Dick Bradsell, one of the country's legendary barmen, set up a service called Bar Solutions which brings the services of one of London's most fashionable bars directly into your home. It's a house party revolution - no more dodgy Sea Breezes, ice cube crises or indifferent mixing.

Bradsell is to London's bars what Marco Pierre White is to its restaurants: over the past few years he has worked at, or helped to set up, the Atlantic Bar and Grill, Pharmacy, the Player, and, currently, Match. The travelling bar is the latest twist on the current philosophy that if going out is a laugh, it's even more fun staying in. There are services to bring food from fine restaurants to your house, and now the glamorous martini bar can come to your door too.

In its first three months, Bradsell's Bar Solutions has catered for people such as Issey Miyake, Mario Testino and Alan Rickman. They will set up shop anywhere in the country from around pounds 600 to pounds 1,000 for 30 people (depending on how much they drink).

I invited Bar Solutions to cater for a party of 30 at my house. The day before the bash, two of the (frighteningly young) bar staff arrived and examined my kitchen. Dressed in tight black clothes, they looked like a hit squad from a French art-house thriller, muttering about the "range" of my kitchen and taking notes. Next day at about 6pm, a five-strong team trooped into my house armed with a set of neat cases and a vanful of ice cubes. Two impossibly good-looking bar staff set up a row of 36 bottles of variously flavoured vodkas on a portable bar, and unpacked dozens of martini glasses and multicoloured mixers and transformed my workaday kitchen into a passable imitation of a hip watering hole.

We had agreed on a menu of seven cocktails beforehand; they would be served in order, though any guests could ask for anything at any time. People were greeted on arrival with a Champagne cocktail or a Cosmopolitan by Bradsell, which, as one guest put it, is like going to someone's dinner party and finding Michel Roux handing you a vol au vent. Bartenders Helen and Tim, fully visible in the open-plan kitchen, were scarily efficient without being too flamboyant, firmly desisting from Tom Cruise-style antics. "Waste of time," Helen sniffed when requested to throw things around. The benefits of the service became more apparent the longer the evening went on. After a few rounds of Match Spring Punch, a delicious if potent combination of vodka, cassis, lemon juice and Champagne, the guests were pleasantly sozzled. At this stage in a normal party, the "bartender" (or lush) making the drinks would also have fallen victim and the downhill quality slide would be apparent. And yet they kept on coming, perfectly presented and so well spaced that there was never a queue for the kitchen, just Bradsell doing the rounds and Helen and Tim handing out a couple of requests at the bar.

"That's what makes the biggest difference," said a friend towards midnight. "About this time, you're normally scrabbling around for whatever's left in the kitchen. But the bar here just doesn't stop." The only danger was extreme drunkenness and a spiralling budget, though Bar Solutions will pace the service according to how much you want your budget to be. At a pre-appointed hour, guests were served vodka espressos as a going-home drink - "a helpful hint" as Bradsell puts it - while the staff cleared up as rapidly as they had set up and I went meekly up to bed.

Bar Solutions (tel: 0171 499 3533).

NO, A SEA BREEZE WON'T DO

Cosmopolitan: Lemon vodka, shaken with orange bitters, lime, cranberry juice and triple sec.

Match Martini (Bradsell invention): Zubroawka bison grass vodka, peach brandy, passion fruit and apple juice.

Match Spring Punch: Polish vodka, framboise syrup, crushed raspberries, creme de cassis, lemon juice and gomme syrup, topped with Champagne.

Vodka espresso: Vodka, Kahlua, Tia Maria shaken with espresso.

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