When I first moved to Hackney, 15 years ago, there was little in the way of sophistication when it came to bars. Craft beer had yet to happen, and ordering a cocktail beyond the retro pub classics was out of the question – “ice and a slice” was as good as it got. Now I have some of the best bars in the world on my doorstep. Master mixologist Tony Conigliaro recently opened Untitled, his third London address after 69 Colebrooke Row and Soho’s Bar Termini; Every Cloud is creating drinks that would give innovative cocktail joint The Aviary in Chicago a run for its money; and then there’s my new favourite bar in the whole of London – Three Sheets, which is on the same buzzy strip of Dalston as Stevie Parle’s Rotorino restaurant.
Three Sheets is a coffee shop by day and is absolutely tiny – which is part of the charm. With just a handful of seats at the bar and at postage stamp-sized side tables, it’s romantic rather than rowdy. It also feels pleasingly urban and 100 per cent London – it’s not a pastiche of 1920s Manhattan or fin de siècle Paris, which I find really refreshing. And then, of course, there’s the concise drinks menu; there are just nine house cocktails (£8 each) and they can mix you any classic you like for £9. The real selling point of Three Sheets is technique. This is serious stuff, but it’s never challenging and weird, just delicious.
I like my drinks bitter, so I’m a fan of the Americano Vergano, with grapefruit and lemon soda – it’s the perfect lighter alternative to a negroni for the warmer months. My absolute favourite tipple here, however, is the Shiso Miso, which I’d describe as a suave twist on a Manhattan. As well as Nikka All Malt whisky, shiso leaf and Angostura, it involves some technical jiggery pokery – the whisky is “fat washed” with butter infused with miso and shiso, then frozen to solidify the fat and strained to capture the liquid. While I can’t get my head around much of this, and it sounds both rather unappealing and wickedly time consuming, the result is fantastic.