At Silversea’s S.A.L.T. Bar, Travel Deeper Through Regional Cocktails, Beers, Wine and More
In Silversea’s revolutionary S.A.L.T (Sea and Land Taste) program, as much attention goes into what guests drink as to what they eat. Given that S.A.L.T. aims to immerse the traveler completely in the culinary culture of any region in which the ship sails, including via the wine list and the cocktail menu, that’s an almost unimaginable amount of planning and preparation.
Back in 2019, when S.A.L.T. was still a concept for the future, Silversea engaged beverage expert John Collingwood, to create an entirely new cocktail menu, both in the intimate, atmospheric S.A.L.T. Bar and the other bars and lounges around the ship.
“The planning started on Silver Spirit,” Collingwood explains. “What we wanted to do together was to create sea change, to do something completely different to what was normally available on cruise ships.
“When you’re on Silver Dawn, or Silver Moon, or any other Silversea ship, you have the great advantage of being able to go to all corners of the globe. What we want to do is to bring the experience of being on land to the experience you will have on board. Having an exquisite martini like you’d have at the American Bar at the Savoy, or going to a wonderful tiki bar in the Caribbean, for example. It’s all about a sensory experience.”
S.A.L.T. Bar’s Beginning
Ambitiously, Collingwood started creating recipes for Silver Spirit’s World Voyage: 66 ports and 66 cocktails. “It was a monumental task from a creative and logistical point of view,” he remembers. “It made me understand and respect the people who work in this industry. When you’re on land, you run out of something and you can simply call and ask for a delivery. At sea, you can’t do that. You have to be super organized. The important thing for us is to be focused and to select the best possible products, as we have limited space and limited time within a region.”
While the pandemic meant a hiatus in global travel, the planning continued. “The one thing that I learned quickly is that we needed to make changes but not alienate Silversea’s existing guests, many of whom have been with the company throughout its entirety,” says Collingwood. “So we will always have Tanqueray, Grey Goose and Aperol, for example. With the S.A.L.T. menu we are trying to create the best possible version of a classic cocktail. But what I also wanted to do was to create something more that was new and modern. So I brought in Fever Tree tonic, Hepple Gin from the north of England, and a 100 percent agave tequila. Lyre’s Amaretti, a non-alcoholic version of Amaretto, was another addition.”
Classics… With a Twist
Classics can always be adapted to suit the guest’s preference, or to the country in which the ship is sailing. A Negroni contains gin, Campari and vermouth, for instance. “But we could make a French Negroni,” Collingwood enthuses. “We have G’vine gin, from France, Suze – French bitters – and Dolin, French vermouth.”
Cocktails, Collingwood believes, should have a back story. “I love to go to markets,” he says. “There is nothing that stimulates my brain more than trying things, getting inspired and taking those ingredients and trying to create something. When it comes to cocktails, it comes to engaging with the intelligent people who come to this vessel, and we have to have integrity, wonderful drinks and stories.”
As such, the Symposia Spritz was created, in honor of the ancient Greek tradition of symposia, or drinking parties, where wine, food and olives were consumed, “We tried to encapsulate that,” says Collingwood. “We’ve used tsipouro [a spirit made from grapes, much loved in Greece], olive brine, prosecco and lemon.
“What we are trying to do, too, is to create a sense of place. Everyone knows beautiful Santorini, for example. But we wanted to come at it from a different angle. How was Santorini created? By a massive volcanic eruption. So rather than doing an elegant drink, we decided to do something very aggressive, which is how we came up with From the Flames. We’ve used a whisky from Islay, along with an oak-smoked vodka. Into that we put ginger, lime and orange aromatics. It’s served in a copper pot.”
Collingwood’s mission now is to change the mindset of bartenders and to attract global talent to Silversea’s ships. “I want guests to have the bartending equivalent of a Michelin-starred chef making their signature drink behind the bar,” he says. “Until now, this has been unheard of. I feel we are at the beginning with this. We want people with knowledge, enthusiasm and passion. You can have all the knowledge and amazing products but if you don’t deliver with a smile and exquisite service, you’re not onto anything.”
Enter Spanish-born Carlos Algara, head bartender in the S.A.L.T. Bar, an intimate space, cool and dark in the heat of the Greek summer when I meet him. Shelf upon shelf of bottles beckon behind the bar, many so unusual that only the most ardent aficionado would recognize them: Callicounis Bitter Amaro, for example, and Mataroa Pink Mediterranean Gin. “I was working at Park Chinois in London’s Mayfair when I saw this position advertised,” Algara says. “I wrote a very passionate letter to support my application. It’s my dream to work on a ship since I started in bartending because it gives you the opportunity to travel and to make what you love in the places that you most love. Every step that I’ve taken in my career has been aiming for this, working for the best cruise line with the best team.”
Algara’s pedigree is certainly impressive; he’s worked at London’s Bar Termini, rated one of the top ten bars in the world, and trained with legendary bartender Diego Cabrera at Tauer in Madrid.
Algara joined Silversea and set about creating the menus for the S.A.L.T. Bar. “Adam Sachs brought the idea of S.A.L.T. and put all the pieces of the puzzle together, and the menu in here was designed by six of us, including John Collingwood,” he says. “The idea of S.A.L.T. is bringing the opportunity to offer our guests an experience similar to what they would have on land. If you are in Croatia, you are working with Croatian gins, or the vermouths that are there. We have spirits from Greece, France, Italy and Spain. While we are in Greece, we have eight cocktails, plus one non-alcoholic, all based on Greek products from these beautiful islands.”
Other cocktails are inspired by different areas of the Mediterranean. “There’s one cocktail we’ve called Gateway because it’s named after the Straits of Gibraltar, the gateway to the Mediterranean,” Algara explains. “It includes Sandeman Ruby Port, blood orange liqueur, and Cardenal Mendoza Brandy.”
As S.A.L.T. Bar’s first summer has drawn to a close and Silver Moon positions to new itineraries in new parts of the world, Algara remains energized.
“The S.A.L.T. program will get bigger and bigger,” he says. “I’m learning all the time.”