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There is a time just after sunrise and a little before sunset when everything takes on a burnished tinge, when the clouds seem on fire and long shadows march across the landscape. This is the ‘golden hour’ beloved of photographers – and of Le Sirenuse’s head barman, Roberto Pane, who has created this cocktail in its honour. “I was inspired by Positano’s sunsets”, he comments, “when the golden light makes our incredible views even more fascinating. It’s the perfect time to enjoy a fresh, light, thirst-quenching cocktail like this one”.
This is also the perfect cocktail with which to toast the makeover and renaming of Le Sirenuse’s original hotel bar, tucked away in one of the lounges of the Sersale family house that became a hotel in 1951. For three generations this intimate bar has served drinks and cocktails to guests, attracting the kind of cult following that discreet, insider hotel bars so often inspire.
The Sersale family were well aware that any changes to this hallowed space would need to be made with the utmost sensitivity. And this is exactly the spirit in which architect and interior designer Annalisa Bellettati approached her conservative makeover of the bar area. There was never any doubt about retaining the early 18th-century walnut counter with its intarsia panels showing personifications of the four corners of the world: one of the hotel’s most most valuable antiques, this was originally made for a Neapolitan jeweller’s shop. The same goes for the ornate oak cabinet behind the counter, which dates from a similar period. Around these two centerpieces in polished wood, Bellettati decided to use accents of old gold, designing a brass batten, side doors and other details, commissioning skilled artisans to make a bar top in translucent onyx, and lining the oak cabinet behind with the same material, backlit to reveal its veins and complex organic patterns, like drifting nebulas. At the same time, the shallow arch above was covered all over in beaten gold leaf, giving it the look of a Byzantine church vault.
The result is a bar that glows with both inner and reflected light – with some of the latter coming from the artwork in whose honour it has been renamed, Martin Creed’s site-specific neon installation Don’t Worry, which hangs from the ceiling of the room that separates the bar from the pool terrace.
The Don’t Worry Bar comes into its own during the golden hour, so why not toast our new arrival, or rather, our reborn old friend, by rustling up Roberto Pane’s latest creation? A little more ‘technical’ than some of the other cocktail recipes published in the Journal, it requires a whipping siphon for the foam. If you don’t already own one, it’s a fun piece of kitchen equipment to consider, lending itself to many uses, from making the perfect whipped cream to infusing soft fruits. Note that for the three ingredients you need to prepare beforehand – the passionfruit syrup, honey water and blackberry champagne foam – the quantities given in the recipe itself are those for one cocktail, while in the procedures for making the three ingredients below we’ve been more generous (why go to all that trouble for a single drink?).
• 50ml (1.7 fl. oz) Vodka
• 20ml (0.7 fl. oz) Lemon Juice
• 15ml (0.5 fl. oz) Passionfruit Syrup – see below
• 5 ml (0.17 fl. oz) Banana Cream Liqueur, the equivalent of one barspoon
• 10ml (0.35 fl. oz) Honey Water – see below
• 60ml (2 fl. oz) Blackberry Champagne Foam for topping up – see below
Cut some passionfruits in half, scoop out the pulp and seeds into a small bowl, stir a little and let it rest overnight. The next day, pass the mixture through a sieve or colander to obtain a clear juice, to which you should add an equal amount of sugar by weight. Stir until the sugar is dissolved, then bottle and keep in the fridge for up to two weeks.
Place 400ml (14 fl. oz) of water in a saucepan, heat until hot to the touch but not boiling, then stir in 500ml (17 fl. oz) of wildflower honey until entirely dissolved. Cool, bottle and keep in the fridge for up to two weeks.
Blackberry Champagne Foam
Place 7g (0.25 oz) gelatin - roughly equivalent to one leaf – to soak in cold water for around ten minutes until soft (vegan and vegetarians can use agar instead of gelatin, following the instructions on the packet). Place 500ml (17 fl. oz) of champagne and 100ml (3.5 fl. oz) of blackberry syrup in a saucepan and heat to around 50°C (120°F), then add the gelatine and whisk well until dissolved. Pour into a 1-litre whipping siphon that has two nitrous oxide cartridges inserted, shake well with the siphon upside down, and place in the fridge for at least 3 hours. Shake well again before use.
When ready to assemble the cocktail, add some ice cubes to the cocktail shaker and pour in the vodka, lemon juice, banana cream liqueur, passionfruit syrup and honey water, in that order. Shake vigorously. Double strain into a champagne coupe, and siphon in the blackberry champagne foam to top up. Decorate with powdered blackcurrant and edible flowers, and serve with a glorious sunset!
Photos © Roberto Salomone