Viajante87 is a brand new experimental cocktail bar in Notting Hill Gate offering cocktails and bites that fuse flavours from Mexico and Japan while ensuring eighty-five per cent zero waste.
The easy-to-miss doorway near the Gate Picturehouse opens to a flight of stairs that lead to a subterranean dark-hued space with low lighting. There’s enough space for 100 people to easily gather and mooch around the twenty-foot backlit bar on high stools or lounge around dark marble tables on velvet stools or banquettes against a featured wall made entirely out of carved cork.
The name Viajante means “explorer” in Spanish with a nod to the four elements of life; earth, wind, water, and fire which are incorporated into Viajante87’s veggie-based cocktails. Signature cocktails are one hundred per cent agave-based and garnishes are minimal often just a block of ice with a berry and at its most bizarre – a dehydrated flying ant.
Most are Mezcal based sometimes smokey, sometimes sour with fermented vegetables, koji fermented rice and tepache, (fermented pineapple). These ingredients have been liberated before being wasted from Viajante87’s sister company Los Mochis restaurant next door and repurposed for cocktails.
The mantra of bar director and mastermind behind the cocktails, Panos Kanatsoulis, is “zero waste”, a philosophy embodied by his hundred per cent zero waste concoction – Smoked Earth a mix of Mezcal and fermented vegetables.
Smoked Earth looks innocent enough in a gorgeous shade of red and is made with lacto-fermented vegetables whose flavour is akin to sauerkraut, courtesy of fermented red cabbage. In the mix is beetroot, purple carrot, and red corn balanced which give it that lovely red hue and with lactic acid. The result is sour and very salty.
Some cocktails confuse the senses such as Cherry Blanco. This sweet number is made with redistilled tequila, and clarified cola so the final colour is white. It’s a full carbonate swig that looks like it shouldn’t taste like cherry cola, yet it does. It is served in a long glass with a long ice cube topped with a cherry.
Other cocktails include The Traveler’s Martini with Tequila infused bell peppers, Salmiana Mezcal, tropical fruit honey, Oloroso sherry wine infused served with three homemade pickled onions on a toothpick. The Rosalita is a tequila and mezcal blend, Campari, with horseradish diluted with water and with dehydrated enoki mushroom – if you like negroni you will like this. Smokey Monastery is a tequila and mezcal blend with sansho berries cordial (Japanese green peppers), and fermented grapefruit soda (Tepache with grapefruit water)
The Queen Mayahuel is the only non-mezcal-based cocktail made with Michter’s bourbon whiskey, Laphroaig 10 years, cold brew coffee, banana oleo and carob and milk punch clarification. It tastes very much like an Old Fashioned.
Perhaps the most experimental is the Sleeping Chicatanas. This is a mezcal, tequila, honey and fermented koji rice cocktail, with Metaxa brandy black truffle and chamomile. The ice cube is topped with a dehydrated flying insect, – hence its name. Apparently, it is a high-protein edible ant from Mexico. Anyway, if you can get over that, you will be rewarded with a strong notes of honey and lemon.
Other than the ant there are small snacks available courtesy of the restaurant next door including crispy rice and tacos with guacamole.
VERDICT: Viajante87 is a very cosy bar with a menu of cocktails that surprise and delight. It may well be the perfect first date venue or the place for a night out with friends who can enjoy extraordinary flavours created sustainably.