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After a long day of Master of Wine meetings, I was ready for anything other than wine. Dukes Bar was highly recommended to me by a London-based wine mentor. If you want to taste London, go to Dukes. The martinis are good too.I entered the cab and authoritatively announced Dukes Bar, please.” My confidence was broken when asked for the address. My phone had no battery. Taxi drivers are regarded as the most educated in all of London, so were they failing me or I them? I told him the two things I knew: it was located in the Mayfair section and was across the street from Berry Bros & Rudd.


As we started off, I realized it was I who had failed him.
We got to Berry Bros & Rudd, and I thankfully exited the taxi. Across the street I marched. I looked and asked; I couldnt find this place. As I started to walk away in defeat, I glanced down a small alley and saw a commercial blue awning tucked in between residences.

The Passion

As I sat down, many thoughts arose. It was perhaps the most civilized bar setting I have ever experienced, definitely the most Edwardian. I thought this was London; I felt as if I was a duke sitting in my home.


I was greeted by Alessandro Palazzi, a man with a professional presence and a mischievous smile. We spoke a bit. After realizing that studying wine and spirits was my life, his face converted to pure passion. He slipped away and returned pushing a mahogany cart. I informed him that I love gin and asked him to challenge me. He came alive and entered into his kingdom of expertise.


Two bottles emerged, and “Sacred” could be seen on both labels. First was the gin, then the vermouth. Dressed in a white coat, his masterful hands poured a second worth of vermouth in a Christofle silver shaker followed by three seconds of gin. He shook over his left shoulder for ten seconds and released the top from the mixture. He smiled and his eyes stalked the lemon. His seamless touch created a squared shaped zest. His focus directed back to the shaker, the gin and vermouth were poured into a 19th century Martini glass fit for Sotherbys.
Perhaps, the most impressive part of all this was the lemon. He never actually put it in the martini. He held it a foot over the martini, twisted as the mist and oils created a sheet of flavor that covered the martini. The presentation and setting were tradition at its finest. Alessandro’s ability to sweat passion is worth more than anything.

A “Sacred” Place

Before Dukes, I wasnt aware of this London-based spirits house. Gin has the main aroma competent juniper, and most gin houses would guard the exact blend of botanicals with their childrens lives. The most popular botanicals used are coriander seed, licorice root, orange peel, orris root, and angelica root. However, by law, Juniper berries must make up the majority of these blends.


Sacred had some of the best balance and intensity of any gin I have had.


So what makes Sacred sacred? It can be broken down into three points. First, Boswellia sacra, also known as frankincense. Second, quality ingredients and care: each of its twelve organically sourced botanicals are macerated with the highest quality English grain spirit and then distilled separately in glassware under vacuum. This process creates a soft and seamless texture, with a very fresh feeling to it.
Finally, the man behind Sacred, Ian Hart, has created a distillery in his home in the North section of London Highgate. Formally a financial guru, now dedicated producer. He left the financial world, wanting to use his Cambridge Natural Sciences degree. He engineered the purest and most unique gin one can experience, and his heart and passion helped create one of the best bar experiences I ever had.

The Duke of Duke’s

When I travel the world for my studies and consulting, I meet all kinds of people. Now and then I meet a true character composed of wit and know-how. Alessandro from the Amalfi coast, Italy, had his first real adventure working at the famed Valentinos restaurant in Santa Monica, CA. When asked why he left such a wonderful post, he said with a smirk, Too many speeding tickets.He has the ability to feel out each persons desires and fulfill them as if you were a family member.

After my second martini, I was hungry. I asked him for his best recommendation. I mentioned that neither I nor my hotel were able to get a seat at Joel Robuchon. He laughed. They are a hard ticket.He excused himself and returned with an option of 7:30 or 8:00.