Nine Lives is the newest cocktail bar in town and is ready to shake up your weekends. The founders of drinks agency Sweet&Chilli, Allan Gage, Emma Hutchinson and Tom Soden, have created a unique bar experience where divine cocktails and a sustainable ethos meet. Last Thursday Nine Lives opened their doors for their launch night and I was lucky enough to check out the Nine Lives experience for myself.
Located in a Victorian basement on Holyrood Street, a stone’s throw from Tower Bridge and the Thames, Nine Lives is perfectly placed for those impromptu after work drinks or the beginning of a night of celebrations. Unassuming from the outside, there’s only a fluorescent sign depicting the number nine as a tally symbol to give any indication of what lies beyond the threshold. As you enter you’re transported away from the buzz of the capital to what could be a Mediterranean living space. We were greeted by friendly staff that made us feel incredibly welcome and explained the Nine Lives concept to us. Sustainability is Nine Lives’ USP and there’s an “ethos of salvation – unveiled treasures, nothing wasted, everything lovingly sourced and selected with intention.” The loop cocktails for example use repurposed ingredients to reduce waste and instead of offering plastic straws which are incredibly environmentally unfriendly, bamboo straws are available which can be reused and cause no detriment to the planet.
The bar has an incredible ambience and an intimate, classy vibe. Seating areas are partitioned by bamboo canes and wooden trellises which create privacy but don’t shut guests off from one another. Seating is a mix of cushioned booths and hip wooden and fabric chairs. The décor is a faultless blend of tropical meets ultra-cool 70s-inspired penthouse. Think: marble tables, faux fur throws, exposed brickwork juxtaposed against aqua blue paint, dark wood, bamboo, rattan and plenty of greenery in the form of succulents trailing from the ceiling. There’s even a shuffleboard which is a brilliant touch, allowing guests to exercise their competitive streak in a classier way than table football.
The cocktail menu consists of 12 imaginative blends and there’s something to appeal to every palate. The menu is divided into four cocktail styles: Shorty, Long, Tarted (Up) and Lowriders so you get a sense of what you’re ordering. For our first round we opted for the Lowriders Alright Blossom and Stingray. Alright Blossom is a delicious mix of prosecco and rosé combined with hibiscus and raspberry and has a distinctive floral aftertaste. Stingray is an intriguing blend of port, raspberry liqueur, citric acid and mint. The mint bounces off the port incredibly well and we dubbed these two cocktails as the antithesis to each other: the light and the dark.
Next up we tried a couple of Long cocktails: Crossfire Hurricane and Thompson. Crossfire Hurricane is a delicious blend of rum(s), lemon, orange, pineapple, passionfruit and bitters which transports you to a tropical island paradise, especially when drank through the bamboo straw. Thompson is a combo of rye whisky, sweet vermouth, lemon, maple and orange and definitely another one for the sweet of tooth.
For our final round we tested out the Shorty and Tarted (Up) cocktails. Shorty Moby Dick sounds pretty unassuming: whisky, coconut and salted caramel, but this one definitely packs a punch! The sweetness of the coconut and salted caramel isn’t enough to compete with the whisky but it drinks smoother after the first few sips! Tarted (Up) Lutra consisted of gin, sake, white wine, lemon and peach and was deliciously refreshing on the palate, a must-try!
We also tasted a Japanese-inspired dish of salmon garnished with cucumber and peppers on a bed of rice, drizzled with sriracha mayonnaise. Bursting with flavour, it was light but satisfyingly filling and complemented the fruity cocktails. Plus it was served in a wooden plate with wooden cutlery, a further nod to Nine Lives’ sustainable ethos.
But it’s not just the taste of the cocktails and bar favours which will get visitors talking. A visit to Nine Lives is most definitely a sensory experience. Incense flows throughout the bar in a heady wave of musk combined with dark florals, further adding to the feeling of being transported to a far flung land. The music is an electronic and bluesy blend which the founders have dubbed as “eclectic.” The sound system is repurposed from the event industry so not a stone was left unturned in the strive for reclaiming and reusing. The music wasn’t overpowering and was at a level where you can hold a conversation, an achievement many bars fail to hit. The toilets are a joy to experience, (once you’ve realised the hand basins which are nowhere to be seen are strangely right by the entrance door and unisex), decked out in palm-print wallpaper and black ceramic tiles with bamboo and copper accents. Even the hand soap is sustainably sourced as it’s made from essential oils derived from cocktail ingredients.
Nine Lives is not just a new cocktail bar, it’s a lifestyle choice and a brilliant way to open people’s eyes to sustainability and the small changes they can make to their consumption habits if they so choose. The plastic straws ban alone is worthy of applause and I for one will certainly be re-using my bamboo straw. On paper Nine Lives risks sounding pretentious with its emphasis on reusing, recycling and trying to save the planet one plastic straw at a time but in reality the vibe is zen and welcoming and the atmosphere is simultaneously upmarket but inclusive. As I exited Bermondsey’s newest undiscovered gem, a waft of musky incense in my wake, I was already planning my return.
Keep up to date with Nine Lives by following their Facebook account and bookmark their webpage ready for its launch. This Saturday, Nine Lives is hosting an event entitled The Hotel Lobby presents: The Borough Market Fundraiser, where 100% of proceeds will be donated to the official Borough Market Traders Support Fund which helps to support local businesses get back on their feet following the devastating Borough Market and London Bridge attacks. Find out more about this event here.