I couldn’t go to London over Christmas and not visit Coupette. Its head bartender, Franck Dedieu, won the Bacardi Legacy competition in 2015 and is good friends with some of my bartender friends in Geneva. Two good reasons to visit him in his new venue to sample some of his creations! Also, the bar manager, Chris Moore, used to be head bartender at the Savoy’s Beaufort Bar. When I mentioned I wanted to visit Coupette while having drinks at the Beaufort, his former colleagues encouraged me to go.
Located in Bethnal Green, Coupette is not the closest bar if you stay in West London like I did but it is well worth the trip. With Coupette simply written on the front window, the bar’s entrance is rather discreet among the surrounding buildings. I was therefore quite surprised, when I stepped inside, to see how large the room actually was. So surprised that I failed to notice the inviting corner banquette right next to the entrance! Instead (and as usual anyway) I went straight to the bar to grab a seat.
The golden bar top reverberating the soft light caught my attention. On closer inspection, it turned out it is covered with hundreds of vintage French coins. Immediately I wondered where they all came from. Surely they were too many to come from the bartenders’ piggybanks? Indeed, they were simply bought on eBay. No cute story then but the result was beautiful nevertheless. It changes from regular wooden or metallic bar tops and adds some extra elegance to the already stylish venue. The atmosphere is friendly, convivial, with customers a mix of regulars, neighbors and London French residents.
From its name to its bartenders, Franck and Justin, through the vintage coins on the bar top, Coupette is a little piece of France in East London. The French touch naturally extends to the ingredients used in the cocktails and to the bar food (camembert nom-nom), with almost every cocktail containing a French spirit, liquor or wine.
At the time of my visit, the menu listed a dozen drinks, including house specialty, the Champagne Piña Colada (Bacardi Heritage, Agricole, Pineapple, Coconut Sorbet, Moët & Chandon Brut).
I started with a Board Room, a strong combination of Hennessy Fine de Cognac, Dubonnet, Walnut, Cherry, Coffee and Smoke. Delicious! It somehow reminded of marron glacé with a smokey aftertaste. Fantastic !
I then followed Frank’s suggestion and went for a Pears, another one of Coupette’s specialties. What makes this cocktail special is that from one visit to the bar to the next, its taste might change and thus surprise you. How so ? Well, Pears is made of calvados and pear juice, both “of the month”. Alas I can’t remember which Calvados was in my drink but the juice was of Williams pears. The bar team extracts the juice from the fruits, filters it several times and then carbonates it for a fizzy effect. Again, the drink was delicious. Light, refreshing and extremely pleasant. I told Justin, the other bartender at Coupette at the time of my visit, that Pears was actually treacherous. It is so light that you tend to forget it’s alcoholic and drink it as if it were an innocent soda.
I concluded my discovery of Coupette’s cocktails with a Ramos/Sam Ross. The cocktail’s name and ingredients made me a little perplexed. For those who don’t know the classic Ramos Gin Fizz cocktail, it is a creamy frothy cocktail made with gin, lemon and lime juice, sugar syrup, cream, orange blossom water, egg white and soda water. It has to be shaken several minutes (the legend says 12 minutes!) to obtain the desired density. I had one at Revel in New Orleans and the menu specifically said no more than one per order to allow the bartender to recuperate presumably.
Coupette’s Ramos/Sam Ross uses completely different ingredients from the original recipe: scotch, peaty scotch, ginger – here in the form of a toddy cordial – and honey. These are all the ingredients to make a Penicillin, one of my favourite cocktails! Coupette has taken the recipe of the Penicillin invented by New York bartender Sam Ross – hence the Ramos/Sam Ross name – and transformed it into a Ramos by shaking it with milk and topping it up with soda. The result was pure bliss : a taste of smokey milky wonder!
I had a nice time at Coupette, chatting with Justin and Franck about our common friends and how cocktail culture is developing in Geneva. Hopefully they’ll come and visit soon to share some of their French/East London inspiration.