If you’ve heard the plaintive notes of a sax or spotted big game peering out of a painting, you’ve likely walked past the new Leopard Bar at The Montague. The perfect place to rest one’s legs after delighting in the South Africa: Art of a Nation exhibition at the British Museum, the new bar transports Africa’s colourful canvas into the heart of London. Add into the mix live jazz on Wednesday and Thursday evenings (which will crescendo into an entire jazz week in mid-March) led by none other than Van Morrison’s saxophonist, Martin Winning, and you’re looking at one of the most exciting openings to hit the capital this year. We caught up with head barman, Manos Manoli, to chat about the new cocktail menu, and what makes this bar quite so special.

What signature cocktails have you created for the new Leopard Bar, and what was the inspiration behind them?

“We have created several signature cocktails. The ‘Leopard Cocktail’ is especially for this bar. It contains Absolut vodka, Amarula and Frangelico, and the garnish (complete with spots and paw print) makes the whole thing look rather visually stimulating.”

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Are there others you are particularly proud of?

“The ‘Gin & Basil Smash’ harnesses the intense flowers of the herbs we grow in our own herb garden. There’s an unusual Cypriot-inspired cocktail in the ‘Smokey Almond’, too. While it is smoky, it is also undeniably refreshing and the vapours never fail to add a bit of theatre to the occasion.”

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Are there are other drinks that play with the same idea?

“Yes, the ‘Smokey Maple’ takes a robust Scotch whisky that stands up to maple syrup. The result is a beautiful smoky sweetness.”

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What do you like most about the ambience of the new Leopard Bar?

“How flexible it is; often reflecting the time of day and mood. In the morning, it is bright and welcoming, perfect for informal meetings or relaxing chats with friends over coffee. In the afternoon, the mood often relaxes a little, with lunch turning over into afternoon indulgences such as a glass of Champagne. By the time evening comes, there’s a sophistication in the air, especially when the live jazz music starts.”

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What’s the bar like on jazz evenings?

“I’ve noticed it turns from a place for friends, colleagues or family to visit and discuss or achieve something, into a venue for its own sake. People come just to pass the hours, drink the signature cocktails, local beers and family-owned wines, whilst often giving themselves over to a jive or two.”

If the rich fabrics, syncopated rhythms and first-class drinks of the new Leopard bar have piqued your curiosity, why not spend an evening there? Or better still; book a night at the effortlessly stylish Montague On The Gardens.

Image Credits: The Smokey Maple, Carnation Cocktail & Jazz Band with Martin Winning all courtesy of Red Carnation Hotels.