Chris Tanner, Jack Wallis and Martyn ‘Simo’ Simpson, the guys behind Denmark Street’s latest opening, The Dram, want you to have fun.
“I love London and I love the bar scene here, I think some of the bars are among the best in the world, but I think there’s a consumer perception that if you want a serious drink, you have to go to a serious bar,” says Tanner.
“Line and The Clumsies [in Athens] were a huge influence to us. Looking in, you might think these guys take themselves seriously, but you go there and people are rattling shots, it’s super fun, really loud, and a completely different experience. We want to give people that experience, a space where people can pop in for a Guinness or a great RTD and explore the bar how they want to – I’ve been describing it as an adult playground.”
It’s the space that will allow this all-things-to-everyone concept to work. In all The Dram seats about 120 covers but no individual space within it seats more than 40. There’s the immediate bar and whisky shop you enter into from Denmark Street, here coffee and food will be served from 9 am before transitioning into a casual, fast-service, kegged cocktail bar with a curated range of spirits. Through the bar is a courtyard terrace and covered seating area, with its own bar for busy nights, above which sits a pool table room served by a vending machine stocked with canned cocktails.
The Dram’s basement houses another intimate bar space that will offer bespoke cocktails and a more explorative, seasonal list, and through another corridor is The Dram’s lab which doubles as a 12-seater island bar.
“We’ve done Silverleaf, we’ve done heritage whisky bars, we’ve done cool underground bars and everything’s been quite separated,” says Simpson. “We want a space with multiple uses but all under one brand.”
Five discrete spaces, each with its own system for service. The Dram is a neighbourhood bar on a massive scale, it just won’t feel like it.
“If it’s Saturday night and it’s popping off, rather than cram more people into the same space, we can open up the second bar at the back and then we can offer cocktails and RTD style drinks without any drop in quality or efficiency. It’s as easy as opening the doors,” says Wallis. “If you don’t need it, we can close spaces back down, so you don’t have 30 people rattling around a 120-capacity venue, they’re in a space for 30, it maintains its intimacy.”
The trio’s background launching Silverleaf, a modern, curated hotel bar, and working in whisky specialist Milroy’s, combine to inform The Dram’s approach to contemporary spirits presentation.
“What natural wine did for the wine world, we want to do for the spirits world,” says Tanner. “The whisky industry and the spirits industry can feel a bit restrictive. What natural wine restaurants like Brat or Top Cuvee did was change the world from en primeur and big bold Bordeaux to Hackney and anchovies. We are looking at the future of the whisky industry as something in our wheelhouse, imbued with a sense of modernity and progression.”
But despite the Milroy’s DNA and the bar’s name, don’t expect just a whisky bar.
“Whisky drinkers drink rum, they love mezcal, the spirits world is connected,” says Simpson. “It’s not old men in smoking jackets and cigars, it’s a new generation and we want to bring them here and that’s what we’ve curated for – we’ve basically created a highly curated space where you can do what you want.”
The Dram will open at 7 Denmark Street, London on 1 November.