Drink Lagos: Radisson Blu
This week, for #DrinkLagos, we checked out the Surface Bar at the Radisson Blu in Victoria Island. Radisson apparently has a reputation in Lagos as one of the best bars, with the best mixologists, and so we checked it out.
On arrival, I asked one of the security guards to direct me to the bar but he hesitated and suggested I sit at a general waiting area. Quite typical, as I was unaccompanied. It definitely didn’t help that Folarin was late. Before I could explode, his colleague intervened.
“Sorry Ma, you walk down the steps and go left.”
This is what you have to deal with as a woman in Lagos because there’s something quite arrogant about women having a flipping drink by their flipping selves.
You naturally wouldn’t think to get struck by weird smells at a bar, especially the one at Radisson – because 5-star crest? Radisson is located in Victoria Island, which usually smells awful. The bar is linked to a terrace that smells quite bad as well – the smell came in waves. One minute you’re perceiving the faint scent of foreign laundry and bourgeoise from the lobby and next thing, you’re struck by a foul smell.
“What’s usually the best cocktail or the people’s favourite?” We inquired.
“Every cocktail on our menu is nice.” The mixologist, Rahmon insisted.
Folarin gave him a stern stare and it didn’t take too long before he started recommending some classics. I can’t remember all of them but I know I heard Victoria Island and Kelvin’s Signature.
I originally insisted on the Orange Mojito to help transition into the pool of concoctions we were about to dive into as mojitos are fairly light. Folarin wanted a berry cocktail but couldn’t really find one on the menu apart from a strawberry daiquiri. If you ask me that’s a bit weird as berries in alcohol are a contemporary trend in the cocktail world – most bars fantastically indulge the fruit with gin and whiskey. Folarin went with Embassy Julep instead.
Surprisingly, I got Kelvin’s Cocktail and had an interesting mixologist challenge my choice of drink. Asides the fact it was a Friday, she said mojitos are boring and do not stand a chance next to the drink she had presented in front of me. She had such a convincing and solid tone that I absolutely endorsed her claim – I felt like the chairman in a board meeting with an overzealous intern handing models on how to grow my business.
The reason I didn’t pay too much attention to the drink when I initially saw it on the menu was because it had bourbon whiskey shaken with sweet vermouth, caramel syrup and a dash of lime juice. First things first, I hate caramel and the thought of having it in sweet vermouth and whiskey was confusing. I also found it a bit ironic that the cocktail was trying to appeal to both genders; its macho title and somewhat feminine components. I’m sorry if popular culture has conditioned me enough to think that caramel is for girls.
Kelvin’s Cocktail turned out to be a real darling in a glass. It was quite mysterious as caramel mixed with sweet vermouth and whiskey had created such an interesting palate that I haven’t quite had before. It was absolutely delicious that I’m mad I don’t remember the name of the mixologist that lured me here.
Folarin liked it and considered it soothing – “It’s a more elegant cousin of the whiskey sour.”
On the other hand, the Embassy Julep was really just a bourbon mojito, according to Folarin. Made with bourbon whiskey, mint leaves and crushed ice, churned together with simple syrup. Radisson described it as; a sweet bourbon cocktail experience truly bringing out the natural flavours. Whiskey and rum are good friends of ours so having them use whiskey in place of rum wasn’t such a bad or unforgivable thing especially when the drink still did its job. We liked it.
My orange mojito still found its way to me and when Folarin took his first sip, he dismissed its blandness as pretentious because it wanted to capitalise on ‘fresh oranges’ – “it could pass for an organic mojito.” I was disappointed because I do not order bad drinks. So I played around with my straw as I was hesitant to try the drink, only to take my first sip and realise it was actually solid. Folarin didn’t mix the drink before he tried it as most of the orange syrup settled at the bottom. Again, like all mojitos we liked it.
Although this recipe claimed to use oranges it had lemon wedges and when we asked Rahmon why it wasn’t orangey all the way, he said, mojitos won’t be mojitos without the citric acid from either lime or lemons. The orange in the drink was only incorporated to add flavour and not deter from the cocktail’s usual recipe.
Folarin was ready to risk it all tonight and ordered a Pina Colada probably because – ‘Radisson’ and so far we had been handed some quality drinks. When I joked about peak milk, Rahmon looked at me in the eye and said; “this is a 5-star hotel Ma’am.” It arrived in an intimidating glass and would pass for a 6’5 ft. human being if it ever came to that. First sip and we noticed it had excess whipped cream, which Folarin considered showing off as it was obviously high-end cream. It was so overpowering and dominant that we couldn’t really taste the coconut cream. But it was delicious, simple and perhaps one of the best pina colada’s we’ve had in our short lives. We were stunned and impressed.
The final drink was a margarita they called, Anchorage Margarita - with a twist of honey to accompany the natural agave flavours found in tequila. It came straight without ice, although chilled with the usual salt rimmed around the glass, which I don’t care too much for. It claimed to follow the standard ratio; 7:4:3 – 50% tequila, 29% Cointreau and 21% fresh lime juice, even though Folarin couldn’t taste the Cointreau. It was sour, strong and evident of Don Julio’s tequila. I find that most margaritas in Lagos are usually sweet like daiquiris but this reminded me of the sour margaritas the often twisted sisters; Mer and Christina would have on Greys Anatomy.
Like its 5-star counterparts, Radisson isn’t excessive and over-performative. Most bars in Lagos will attempt to overcompensate by mixing often imbalanced concoctions that deviate from most recipes. However, Radisson isn’t here for that, it sticks to the right amount of liqueur in every recipe without guessing people’s alcohol tolerance. And if you think about it, this is true mixology.
Good for: Dinner & Drinks, Date Night
Food: Full Kitchen
Happy Hour: Yes | Bottle Service: Yes | Wine: Yes | Beer: Yes
Anchorage Margarita - N3000
Kelvin’s Cocktail - N3000
Embassy Julep - N3000
Orange Mojito - N3000
Christina is a TV and Film junkie who also spends an incredible amount of time reviewing skincare products she can barely afford.