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The Maven’s Mad and Marvellous Fourth Birthday Party

8 October 2015
The Maven’s Mad and Marvellous Fourth Birthday Party
We were well and truly taken through the looking glass at The Maven’s Mad Hatter-themed fourth birthday party. An eccentric, wondrous evening packed with quirky delights, the Mad Hatter himself would surely take his hat off to bar owner Nino and event partner Hendrick's Gin. “Hendrick's are a bit mad, and we’re a bit mad!” Nino laughs, and mad they certainly are, but madness and genius often come hand in hand.

Maven 4th Birthday - Article 2 Photography by Mick Backhouse

There are no anachronisms in The Maven, no modernities that belie the bar’s prohibition theme. It’s a time capsule, an other-worldly hub of curiosities, the kind of bar that would have provided Woody Allen unlimited inspiration for Midnight in Paris. There’s a real sense of stepping back in time, uncontrived and authentic, but with a twist. Stag heads are mounted on the walls, surrounded by portraits of hares in Tudor dress, pigeons sporting ruffs and light fixtures made of old phonographs. You find yourself searching dark corners for Hemingway nursing a mojito, this would certainly have been a venue to draw in the brooding novelist.

Maven 4th Birthday - Article 3

Masters of mixology

But it isn’t just the decor that does The Maven justice. The bartenders are among some of the finest in the country, skilled at mixing everything from a classic cocktail to more unusual concoctions. Nino trains the waiters himself at what he calls “The Maven Academy”. “I like to employ inexperienced bartenders, they don’t have bad habits yet”, he explains. And who better to train them than Nino himself, who has been refining his mixology skills since working behind his father’s bar in Portugal aged just 16.

Nino and Hendrick's pulled out all the stops entertainment-wise. Jazz singer Tessa Smith created further synergy crooning into her vintage microphone while the jaw-dropping Alex the Mind Reader did the rounds stunning people with Dynamo-esque tricks. Hendricks’ self-proclaimed Professor of Curiosities, an ebullient host whole-heartedly committed to his role, was also on-hand to entertain the crowd and a marvellous job he did at that.

Maven 4th Birthday - Article 1 Photography by Mick Backhouse

The philosophy of the cocktail hour

Midway through the evening the professor, who declared his name Nicolas Bubbles von Steinberger, ushered attendees into The Maven’s hidden backroom, normally reserved for private parties. Here we were invited to listen to the philosophy of the cocktail hour, musings derived from Pulitzer Prize winning Bernard DeVoto’s The Hour: A Cocktail Manifesto, a celebration of the martini. “It is liquid inspiration”, the Hendricks’ brand ambassadors proclaim as perfectly-measured martinis were served to the crowd.

An extraordinary extravaganza of an evening with an unbeatable ambience, The Maven solidified its position as the city’s most offbeat, best-hidden bar, a fact recently cottoned onto by Buzzfeed. But it isn’t just Buzzfeed that has noted the allure of The Maven, Nino admits investors around the world have their eyes on the bar: “We’ve had people trying to invest abroad taking the concept to London or New York. We’ve got good things to look forward to from The Maven in the future.” And after last night’s success it goes without saying that the world will be watching.

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Sophie’s a jack of all writing trades. A freelance journalist and copywriter, writing culture features and opinion pieces makes her world go round.