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First Sip: O Theatre

Mar 4, 2014 | 13:50 Tue
Brothers Javier and Diego Ferro quietly opened this little cocktail lounge on the second floor of the Lyceum Theatre just before the CNY holidays. Once upon a time it used to be some kind of Chinese guanxi bar than none of us would ever have bothered to visit. This new incarnation has potential.

The Ferro brother's gutted the space, moved the bar and put up handsome art deco-inspired decor. It's got potential. For starters, you have to walk through the lobby of the theater to get to it, which gives it a slight mystique. Inside, it's classy but comfortable and friendly. And Javier plays some excellent music — Nick Cave, Sonic Youth, PJ Harvey. I'm pretty sure we both grew up with the same CD collection.

The cocktail selection was conceived and written by Mexican mix master Hektor Monroy.

He got his start in Shanghai working for Eduardo Vargas at the now-defunct Chicha. He moved from there to Unico by Mauro Colagreco, where he runs the bar and cocktail program. O Theatre is a consultation project for him.

I've never been a big admirer of Monroy's past work. That's not to say he's not good at what he does. He's got knowledge and talent; he tends to channel it into drinks that I don't like to drink — sweet, flashy stuff. But that's probably more of a statement about Monroy's has worked for than about Monroy himself. His work at O Theatre is a bit more my speed.

The menu comprises three categories — "Sparkling", "Still" and "With Ice" — with about five under each. That first section features opulent concoctions mixed exclusively with Laurent Perrier Champagne and served in tall, slender martini glasses. There are cocktails of backbone and substance, like the Royal Spritz. Champagne is layered over bittersweet Aperol and Aperol jelly with fresh orange. Or you can go for a molecular crowd pleaser, like Monroy's take a on a Kir Royale. It's made with cassis caviar and mixed with gold dust that swirls in Brownian motion as you sip it. Shine your smartphone flashlight on it, sparkles. These will run you upwards of 85rmb.

The "Still" section is mostly variations on the martini. Think sweet and creamy versions made with espresso and Baileys, or fruit flavors like the Red Fruits Martini or the Appletini. I tried none of the above and instead opted for the Cucumber Martnini; you can never go wrong with Hendrick's.

For cocktails "With Ice", options are nice and stiff. My suggestion: go straight for the Rum Fashion. It's basically an Old Fashioned, swap out the bourbon with vanilla-infused rum add sugar and chocolate bitters, stir for a whole minute.

A close second to that is Monroy's Smoky Sour made with Lagavulin 16, fresh lime juice, sugar cane reduction and a garnish of wood smoke. Truth be told, the wood smoke is a bit of unnecessary theater, but I suppose that's to be expected in a bar with a name like this. The drink is fine on its own.

If you're a big spender, there is the O Theatre cocktail, a mix of premium spirits like Casa Noble tequila, Zacapa 23 rum, Roberto Cavalli Vodka, Tanqueray 10 gin, Johnny Walker Black Label, fresh lime juice and Coca Cola. In other words, it's a super premium Long Island Iced Tea.

If you're feeling peckish there is a small selection of snacks — platters of cheese and charcuterie, bruschetta, carpaccio, and a few sweets too. They range in price from the mid 40's to the high 80's.

All in all, you could do a lot worse. You could easily spend a lot of cash here, but at this point, that really shouldn't be a surprise to anyone anymore.

For a listing of O Theatre click here.