For those in the know, a clandestine cathedral of expertly crafted luscious libations and curious cocktails lies hidden away, keeping itself to itself in the heart of Soho. An invisible edifice to the passing pedestrian, yet a beacon of speakeasy-style mixology welcomes the discerning drinker with floor after floor of lamp-lit bars, intimate lounges and candle-clad flames licking the walls of function rooms to fulfil the need of any discerning drinker. Welcome to the land of Milk & Honey.
Founded by the late Sasha Petraske in New York City in 1999, the original Milk & Honey, in his own words, was to be a “secret oasis of quality in the desert.” This is exactly the ethos that the club carries with it to this day. The London premises is a benchmark of quality, expertise and service – at a level seldom found in the UK. It not only looks, but feels like a slice of Manhattan-style service and attention to detail so far away from the pioneering watering hole in the wasteland.
The compendium begins, naturally with eulogising tributes, anecdotes, the passion and the vision of Sasha outlined above. He only passed away in August of 2015, making us all the luckier that he managed to share his life’s work with us before it being cut so tragically short. Immediately one takes note of his attention to detail. The start of this journey is dedicated purely to establishing your own Milk & Honey in your very own home – or as close as you can get. Despite being vigorously-detailed, Sasha seems very much aware of the limits this may have, depending on expense and obviously, the size of the bar you are able to commit your home to.
No detail is left too small not to be essential. Even a header of “Paper Towels – more than you think you will need” is intrinsic to this master-class, in addition to even locking certain rooms of your house should your party be of substantial size. We get a glimpse in the mind of the perfectionist who Sasha was. Nobody is left behind on his quest to give everyone the opportunity to have what he had.
The cocktail bible itself begins with, well, where one could start and finish this if one so wanted to. The Old Fashioned: a benchmark which any cocktail maker worth his bitters needs to be able to perfect – every time. Our very own In Good Taste whiskey master wrote his first article paying homage to said creation. A cocktail should always be “straight alcohol in a glass – any deviations must be considered, conservative, and absolutely necessary.” I couldn’t agree more. In this age of tall, brightly-coloured, overly-sweet, fruity, made with much alacrity “cocktails” such a rule is more important than ever to adhere to. Perfection takes time, respect for your ingredients and above all – enjoying the fruits of your labours.
Again, as I’m writing this it makes one feel even more fortunate that we have this knowledge written down in black and white for us not only to learn from, but give us inspiration to evolve and continue our quest to enter mixology Valhalla. Sasha Petraske will be there waiting for us, martini in hand I’m sure. Thank you for guiding us out of the desert and into our own secret oases where the milk & honey will be forever plentiful.