There’s a sort of fascinating charm when the idea of a gin distilled in a kitchen, partly “for fun” and partly out of curiosity, evolves over a few years into the opening of a bar on Andrassy Avenue. The story of the First Hungarian Gin Manufactory began five years ago, and Sfinx Gin & Wine Bar opened its doors wide to the public last week, hence we went to see what surprises the capital’s latest emerging star has in store.
I think gin and tonics, or perhaps Gin-Fizz, was the first drink that was imprinted on my consciousness from a very young age because on holidays, I used to glance with envy at the adults who would be sipping these cocktails by the pool. By the time I got to the point where I was drinking them myself, I soon learned that there is a difference between gin and gin, and that it really matters what other ingredients you mix them with to make exciting long drinks.
A young but emerging Hungarian gin brand, Opera Gin Budapest, started its career a few years ago and gained more and more publicity, opening an impressive new bar on Andrássy Avenue last week. Attractive drinks, delicious food, and a very appealing interior await those who visit the Sfinx Gin & Wine Bar on the ground floor of Hotel Moments Budapest. The name choice is no coincidence; the Sfinx’s “brothers” can be found just a few blocks away since the Opera House is guarded by two sphinxes, which are among the city’s most famous statues. Perhaps only the lions of the Chain Bridge can beat them in fame, but they are now in a rather long hibernation due to renovation work.
At Sfinx, high-quality, characterful drinks are accompanied by emphasized gastronomy, thanks to Mariann Kiss. The much-traveled chef has already wowed Jeremy Irons and Brad Pitt with her style and food, and finally, the Hungarian public can also experience her swanky bar food offer—which she claims is gap filling. When creating the menu, the aim was to have a place in Budapest, like in the world’s biggest cities, where you can order light but exciting dishes to accompany your drinks. The fermented Padrón peppers on the burger, for example, get some gin overtones, as does the salmon ceviche with its touches of gin spice, and the duck liver torchon with seaweed salad barrel-aged with Opera Barrel-aged Gin gives a boho personality to the more elegant, creamy liver. This is how the symbiosis of kitchen and bar works at Sfinx. Using the Opera brand’s already well-known London Dry Gin, the newly launched Opera Gin, a limited edition 500-bottle aszú barrel-aged gin made in collaboration with István Balassa, and the 2020-born vodka.
Most of us probably associate sphinxes with the fact that there is something of value lurking here, in addition to the things already mentioned, if it is worth having someone—or in this case something—guarding it. In the Sphinx, you can indeed find a few curiosities, such as a bottle of Opera’s very first gin. According to the creators’ own admission, the current recipe is very different from the original, but these bottled drops are exciting reminders of the past, showing how far a good concept and a well-mastered product can go over the years—in this case, from a kitchen to the Andrássy Avenue. Moreover, the Opera gin story was born, so to say, out of fun, or rather curiosity, in a country where the spirit had no particular tradition.
Speaking of things of value, we can’t resist mentioning the contemporary paintings in Sfinx, which will be changed regularly according to the plans, so the newest bar in the capital will also function as a kind of gallery, where gastronomy and art will be perfectly balanced, with a sophisticated, cosmopolitan vibe.
Photos: Panamyphoto / Socially; András Zombori / Socially