Review: Graffiti Bar, Earlsfield


The bar holds masterclasses with owner Jimmy Greenhalgh.


By Joe Short

Long Island Iced Teas, Woo Woos, Mojitos. The world of cocktails is all too familiar for some and yet utterly alien to others. Many enjoy the margarita and martini staples, others love the sense of adventure and search for a new taste, while plenty more cannot tell the difference between a Piña Colada and a Ti Punch.

Our relationship with cocktails has changed dramatically over the years. It was once a sweet drink used as an early-morning pick-me-up and gained popularity in the speakeasy days of prohibition. Its reputation soared in the neon days of 1980s food colouring and has now settled with a usually elitist clientele.

Yet just because cocktails in central London cost £20 a pop doesn’t mean you have to join them. There are plenty of establishments out there that offer you just as much flavour, care and craftsmanship with their drinks – and one even lets you serve them yourself.

Cue Jimmy Greenhalgh, owner of Graffiti Bar in Earlsfield. The self-confessed northerner who came to London to see his fortune struck gold on Garratt Lane with his friendly bar designed to educate and excite cocktail lovers and novices alike.

“We’re not an industry leader,” he explains quite frankly. “We don’t break down any boundaries, we don’t set a new standard in terms of experimental products.

“But what we do is provide people with a very accessible way to experience something that a lot of people seem to find a little inaccessible.

“Cocktail bars can sometimes come across as a little exclusive, not in terms of how premium they are but in how exclusionary they can be. What we try to do is give people the opportunity to call a cocktail bar their local, as opposed to a pub.”

It certainly isn’t a pub. Graffiti is decked out much like the bedroom of a teenager when he first gets into music and isn’t bothered about girls: black walls adorned with photos of guests who have come and conquered the Graffiti Challenge and the space-age bar is something to behold.

We arrived at 5pm not for the Challenge – in which you earn a bottle of champagne or £60 tab by completing the menu – but for Jimmy’s cocktail masterclass. After a brief introduction to the tools used in making your Flirtinis and White Russians, we are invited to sample the staples on Graffiti’s menu: Moscow Mule, Iced Tea and Cosmo – with a cheeky Lush on the side.

We then mix and make our own cocktails – a Side Car and Tom Collins for myself – which was actually a lot easier than I was expecting. Although this class is designed primarily for hen dos, office parties and team building, a two-on-one session with the bartender is actually more fun.

Anecdotes fly back and forth, there’s no queue to sample cocktails and you get a much more hands-on experience. Jimmy is also more than welcome to cater for dietary needs – I opted for a divine virgin raspberry ripple.

At £25 a head the masterclass is a surprisingly decent deal. You get access to something you’ve seen a thousand times yet never stood behind – the bar – and although it does feel a little bit 1990s with S Club 7 blaring out over the speakers, Graffiti is an enjoyable, relaxing place to drink and chat.

Beer is available for those inclined but this place is a real cocktail maker and one imagines asking for a bottle of Bud is (quite rightly) frowned upon.

The full-on party scene isn’t for everyone, which is why cocktail classes exist. It’s fun spending your early evenings pouring drinks without the dreaded knowledge you’re definitely heading towards table-top dancing.

In a London drinking scene currently under attack from craft breweries, Graffiti remains surprisingly competitive as a local attraction, as Jimmy explains: “One person suggested we should tag our bar ‘Graffiti: Bring Spare Pants’. But we like to just call it your friendly neighbourhood cocktail bar, because that’s what it is.

“It’s somewhere on your doorstep where you can come and have something you wouldn’t normally have, but still feel comfortable being there.

“Bring an open mind and generally bring your dancing shoes.”

Graffiti Bar, Earlsfield SW18 4SR // 020 8944 9009

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