The best liquor collection in London isn’t to be found in the nightclubs of Chelsea, or a Mayfair hotel. It is at Dee Dee’s, a sleek jazz bar in Herne Hill that offers over 400 different spirit labels, including 128 whiskeys alone.
You really wouldn’t know it. A five minute walk up Herne Hill itself, Dee Dee’s is situated on a long, mostly residential stretch of road arcing over to King’s College Hospital. The bar stands at the end of a tiny strip of shops that includes two off-licences and a chippie. Yet despite this unpromising location, Dee Dee’s is easily one of the most stylish joints to be found this side of the river.
We’ll get to the drinks in a moment. The decor is beautiful and clearly a real labour of love. Inside the place seems to smoulder. Monochrome prints of jazz legends decorate the dark purple walls. The black bar gleams under low-hanging lights. Perched upon an elevated bar chair, you can easily imagine glancing left to spot Sinatra nursing a whiskey or Dean Martin practicing his vocals.
So okay, the drinks. There are three main displays, each containing more liquor than you will find in many off-licences. All are underlit, giving the bottles a luminous, otherworldly look. The stock is pretty extensive – and growing all the time. “If you want it, and we ain’t got it, we’ll stock it,” says Eiljah, the bar’s amiable manager. He pauses. “But most of the time we got it.”
Whiskey connoisseurs across London come to Dee Dee’s to sample the wares. There is a lot to sample – and not merely whiskey. Vodka, rum, tequila, gin – all are well represented with multiple labels, some familiar, most of which I’d never heard of. There are 13 different versions of Jack Daniel’s, just to give you an idea of the variety. As you’d imagine, the price range is pretty eclectic. £4 gets you a single Jameson, £5 a Grey Goose. Most expensive? That would be the Balblair ’83, a thirty year-old Single Malt Scotch whiskey (a whopping £30 a shot).
If – like me – you aren’t a serious whiskey drinker, plenty of fun can still be had. For example, they do a handy 2-for-1 cocktail special midweek. And, rather geekily I enjoy simply examining the bottles. Here the vodkas are the clear winners. One bottle houses a glass dragon inside it. Another comes in the shape of a skull, grinning teeth and all. A third has a wavy, serpentine neck, because why the hell not?
In a new and unexpected twist, Dee Dee’s has just launched a breakfast menu, available daily from this week. Although I haven’t yet tasted the food, the concept is high-quality takes on a range of dishes from eggs benedict to fruit salads and the full Wnglish, which includes maple-cured bacon, sautéed mushrooms and black pudding. Perfect, of course, to soak up the night before.